We were cautiously optimistic when Bay TV won the license for Liverpool’s own telly channel. Previously an online channel, they’d built up a steady stream of watchable uploads, and proven they actually cared about what was going on in the city. With a huge cull in local content by ITV and the BBC, it was up to whoever snapped up this license (their closest rival was Phil Redmond’s Our-TV) to fill a much-needed gap. The Broadcast Licensing committee thought Bay TV was the strongest proposition, saying they had “the greatest understanding of the needs of the local area”. But has it lived up to its promise since its launch in December?

Actually, yes. We’ve been keeping an eye on the station over the past few months and, after a shaky start (as in, our TV couldn’t even find the bloody channel), it’s doing a really great job in its own way.

One thing we quickly noticed is that Bay TV’s pace is rather interesting. In an age when viewing a three minute YouTube video is seen as a heavy commitment, and the mainstream channels are constantly jostling for your attention with bright colours and loud noises – Bay TV can afford the space to give fifteen minutes to an open mic songwriter, a lesser-known community project, or the lovely Liam Fogerty chatting to a charity fundraiser. It’s an altogether slower proposition than anything else on Freeview and, weirdly, it really does holds your attention.

Bay’s arts coverage is better than we’d have hoped and takes up the majority of BayTV’s schedule – music is woven heavily into their programming, and one of the first things we stumbled across was ArtsAlive: Acoustic, a half-hour show giving unsigned songwriters and performers a couple of songs to show what they can do. These are artists most would probably talk over at the back of the Zanzibar, but given an entirely new and larger platform on Bay.

baytv-liverpool-the-guideThe Guide, Bay’s flagship ‘what’s on’ programme, is helmed by the relentlessly likeable Jay and Ellie, and is admirably varied: last week saw a Threshold festival special, there was a panto special over Christmas, we’ve seen interviews with the likes of the Michael Causer Foundation, Millie Dollar (main pic) and Bill Ryder-Jones in recent weeks talking about their latest projects. There seems like a real effort to cover all bases, and the show’s all the more watchable for it. (There’s a bunch of recent ones up on their YouTube channel).

Of course, much of Bay is endearingly shoddy and totally mad, as any local TV channel should be. Alongside the hypnotic and surreal yoga lessons each morning (don’t watch it after a big night out), ArtsAlive’s strand of various shows, peppered across each week, give screen time to eccentric local theatre producers and artists talking about their work. It’s a really healthy balance, where a special needs theatre group is given equal time to whatever’s on at the Everyman, and where one woman’s collection of Elvis memorabillia takes pride of place alongside a digital arts festival. Anything goes on BayTV – it’s refreshing, open, and funny.

It’s also pretty bang on the money – this week’s Arts Alive: Art focused on LOOK photography fest and Peter Blake’s dazzle ferry, for example (below), and featured the likes of The Royal Standard recently. It feels like a useful primer for people who may want to delve into parts of the city’s arts scene outside of the Tate. Who needs pesky culture blogs, eh?

Most weekends Bay also screens microbudget, independent films from across the country. Like any platform for independent film, there’s been some proper shit that looks like it’s been filmed through a potato, but also some amazing undiscovered gems – and these are pieces of work that would never, ever get the chance to be screened on TV were it not for channels like Bay existing. They’re films you might catch on at FACT once in a blue moon, but it’s much more interesting to try out these indie shorts than vegetating in front of whatever blockbuster C4’s screening that weekend.

In amongst the specially produced content, there’s a bunch of fairly generic syndicated shows – extreme and outdoor sports, tellyshopping, wrestling, that fill the gaps. It’s a necessary evil for a tiny channel like this. But for the sheer amount of content produced every week, completely tailored to what’s going on around the city region, Bay TV’s doing a brilliant job of flinging the city onto your TV screen. And it’s important we all support it, warts and all. Long may it linger on our EPG.

Bay TV
Freeview channel 8
Archived content is also on YouTube

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