When Erik Huggers joined the BBC he said that the BBC's internet service tended to be a lonely experience, meaning he wanted to be aware of the other users on the site an interact with them.
ITV Local Yorkshire, when it existed, was not a lonely experience. The comments and interactions over the death of an Emmerdale star, the demolition of a local landmark and the inclusion of viewers photos and films made it a space of genuine interaction and participation. At the time the service was running we had a stream of visitors to Kirkstall Road and even a dedicated studio for viewers to have their say. I witnessed some real passion.
The internet has come a long way. Once upon a time it was a place to put information that was already available on other services, but now it has become a medium in its own right with its own way of doing things. ITV Local was an attempt to respond to this trend.
And so I was interested to see the return of Calendar News to ITV.com I wanted to find out whether it is old fashioned TV being recycled on the internet or a new offering from Calendar News. Perhaps a complementary service that extended the value of their excellent TV journalism?
To its credit, the site is simple. It's a list of reports that you can see again if you happened to miss them on the evening news. A catchup service. So far I haven't been able to find a comments section nor a way of watching the reports on my iphone. There doesn't seem to be a way of adding my own version of events. In fact there isn't even the obligatory "contact us" button. All in all disappointing as this is just an old fashioned web site in the model of old fashioned broadcasting. A lonely experience.
All this is a shame because ITV's big strength has been its relationship with audiences. When I was at the BBC we were for a time aware that the corporation had the image of a distant authority figure – reliable but dull, intelligent but aloof, high quality but slow, unapproachable, behind closed doors etc. ITV, on the other hand, was daring, fun, risky, approachable. Above all it was someone you could talk to – not distant and forbidding.
It was for these reasons that I'd hoped that ITV could be a people channel through services like ITV Local, offering points of contact and engagement. I'd thought that it could offer an open door to its audiences and be a place where people could really meet one another and have a bit of fun. That does sound a bit like Britain's Got Talent and X Factor doesn't it, but perhaps not much else. It would be great if participatory thinking could permeate through to other areas of the output even to the regions.