College launches national channel to show off budding film and TV talent. Martin Whittaker reports
At first sight, Immingham is not the sort of place you would think of as a major force in broadcasting and digital media. But this Humberside port, in an area known chiefly for the decline of its fishing industry, is about to come into its own with the launch of a new national TV channel.
Propeller TV is run by a subsidiary of the Grimsby institute of further and higher education, broadcasting from studios in Immingham.
The new satellite channel, to be launched on Sky TV on February 6, is the first of its kind - a national outlet for emerging film and television talent -although viewers may be blissfully unaware that it is beamed via satellite from a small town on the east coast.
"Fortunately now with digital technology, it doesn't matter whether you're in Uzbekistan or Immingham," said Simon Couth, director and chief executive of Image Channel Company, which is running the venture.
"It's very exciting because we have a huge amount of work from training institutions, screen agencies and independent film festivals. There's all this budding new talent trying to make it into the industry."
The channel launch, with pound;5.2 million of funding, also represents a pivotal moment for Mr Couth. Last October, he won a STAR award for his high-quality work in FE, developing vocational education and training for the broadcast industry.
In a career that has spanned education and broadcasting, he worked with the Grimsby institute to launch a centre of vocational excellence in media.
The centre, East Coast Media, runs courses in digital video, broadcast, press and multimedia journalism, production, photography and professional writing.
It also runs a cable station, Channel 7, which broadcasts to 140,000 homes in north-east Lincolnshire. One of its projects involved converting three vans into mobile studios, taking them into communities and training people to make programmes about issues affecting them. These go out on the local cable network.
The project has involved more than 1,600 adults - many from deprived communities -in studying video, film or television. It has won a Beacon award for lifelong learning, Propeller TV applies the same idea nationally, says Mr Couth. "We need to be doing something like this nationally because there are a lot of training centres that provide very good experience in film and TV. But the key to getting a job in television is actually working to real, professional broadcast standards. That's what we were doing regionally. This new Sky channel now gives us the opportunity to do that nationally."
The channel is free to anyone with a satellite dish and is already broadcasting dramas, documentaries, animation, films, music and current affairs.
Its backers include the Learning and Skills Council, the regional development agency for Yorkshire and the Humber, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Anyone who is training or is at a new film or television company can send content to be broadcast.
"In our first year, we are probably going to reject 90 per cent of the work that's coming in because, unfortunately, a lot of people aren't actually working to broadcast standards," said Mr Couth.
"Our job then is to send back advice packs about how to get your work broadcast.
"Hopefully, by year three we will actually accept 50 per cent of the work coming in because we are raising the standard of work that's submitted."
For details and to submit work see www.propellerTV.co.uk