|Launched||9 February 2004|
|Owned by||Northern Visions Ltd|
|Picture format||576i (16:9 SDTV)|
|Virgin Media||Channel 159|
NVTV, also known as Northern Visions Television, is a local community television station based in the city of Belfast. It is operated by the Northern Visions media and arts project, and although some staff are employed by the station, most involved are volunteers. NVTV is now the only local community station in Northern Ireland.
The station was launched on 9 February 2004, with the first programme aired being a film called The School Trip, which was made by students at the Fleming Fulton School in the city. Initially NVTV broadcast just one hour of programming on weekdays which was repeated on loop, with shows repeated again at the weekend; however, the station expanded its content and covers community and other events in and around the Belfast metropolitan area, as well as other commissioned programmes. The analogue signal was broadcast on UHF channel 62 (799.276 MHz).
NVTV was originally granted a four-year Restricted Service Licence by the Independent Television Commission, and is operated by the long established, non-profit Northern Visions media and arts centre in the Cathedral Quarter of the city. The station's facilities are used by 200 community-based organisations, as well as a range of individual actors and filmmakers.
NVTV's analogue transmissions ceased in October 2012 during the digital switchover, however it continued to stream its programming online. On 10 October 2012, the channel was granted a 12-year local TV licence to broadcast on digital terrestrial television by Ofcom. The channel was relaunched on 29 September 2014 through the Freeview and Virgin Media platforms. It is currently licensed to transmit on UHF Channel 30 (Freeview LCN 8).
Northern Visions was established in 1986 as a Channel 4 franchised workshop under the ACTT Workshop Agreement, with a strong emphasis on inclusion and the value of bringing communities together to meet a common goal. It was the first local "production company" in Northern Ireland to be awarded a Channel Four commission, one of a number of documentaries in the years that followed that went on to be broadcast by other European broadcasters, ZDF, RAI and ARTE and to win awards. Documentaries were also broadcast in Australia and America.
The organisation was an integral part of the Film & Video Workshop Movement, which comprised groups with united passions for film, politics and a polemical critique of metropolitan, industrial hegemony and unbalanced forms of media representation. It worked as a collective providing facilities to other people for training or educational purposes, outside the realms of their creative production work.
The ACTT Workshop Declaration was a ground-breaking agreement promulgated by the ACTT (now BECTU) in 1982, in consultation with the English Regional Arts Associations, the Welsh Arts Council, Channel Four and the BFI, recognising the alternative practices of the ‘workshops’ and constituting them to encourage a cultural, social and political contribution to society. The declaration was a radical step for a traditionally closed-shop union, and established working practices in the non-profit, cultural sector. Groups of four or more full-time members whose funding derived from public sources and who engaged in non-commercial work on a not-for-profit basis were enfranchised by the ACTT and given a condition to grant aid for a period of 1, 2 or 3 years, freeing them from ‘the tyranny of continually searching for insecure short time funding from arts organisations’. Of immediate significance was that the ACTT placed the cultural and political ideologies of its new membership before wage concerns in allowing the groups to operate on an egalitarian minimum wage structure. The recognition of cross-grade practice also allowed filmworkers to gain experience in a range of roles and stipulated that the group and not the commissioner would own sole copyright to the work.
In the late 1990s the organisation decided to move away from programming for national broadcasters to develop local community distribution platforms and opportunities for communities at disadvantage in Northern Ireland. In 2002, they were one of fifteen groups selected by the Radio Authority to take part in the Access Radio pilot scheme, running during 2002/2003. The aim of the project was to inform the future regulator - Ofcom (Office of Communications) - whether 'Access Radio', a new tier of not-for-profit radio, is a viable concept and, if it is to be introduced in the future, how it might be licensed, regulated, funded, promoted and organised. In March 2003, a full evaluation of the project New Voices by Anthony Everitt, an independent evaluator, was published. In September 2003 Ofcom announced that it had decided to extend the period of the pilot scheme for, what it now refers to as, 'Community Radio', for a further year, until 31 December 2004. This pilot led to a new tier of community broadcasting in the UK when community radio stations were recognised as a distinct third tier of radio alongside BBC Radio and commercial radio in the Communications Act 2003.
Following a loophole in legislation, Northern Visions joined with the Institute of Local Television, to lobby for local public service television on Freeview in the UK in 2003. They were joined by a number of advocates including the Community Media Association in Sheffield and Oxford local television (now "That's Oxford"), Somerset Film & Video and Channel 7 (now Estuary TV). In 2011, the Conservative Government published its Framework for Local TV. This created the opportunity for local TV licences to be awarded through a competitive selection process run by Ofcom to broadcast targeted and relevant local content including news, current affairs and entertainment programmes.
Northern Visions moved into its present building in 2004 in Cathedral Quarter in Belfast and established an arts and digital media centre, principally to work with groups involved in the arts, culture and local heritage, media literacy and education, community development, urban regeneration and community relations. The vision is of a democratised form of media where new technologies are utilised as a tool for expression and creativity, to effect social change and combat poverty, social exclusion and isolation.
The organisation has a strong community arts ethos. It has championed access and participation in the arts and has formulated new ways of making films and digital content with local communities throughout its history as an organisation. It's film Our Words Jump to Life, broadcast in 1988, was the first time an Irish film made through community arts practice was broadcast on national television. This was notable as the closed shop dominated the film and television industry at that time. The film went on to win several awards including the Celtic Film Festival, toured Australia and was picked up for broadcast by European television stations.
The organisation has one of the largest repositories of community film archives in Ireland. Its collections are currently being digitised and made available online. As well as archives dating from the 1970s, the organisation has a special collection of archives of social life in Northern Ireland from the 1930s.
NVTV broadcasts from 6pm - 11pm, 7 days per week. Local news at 7pm and 10.30pm in a half-hour programme, Focal Point, Monday - Friday, with a Focal Point Round Up at the weekends. Saturday 6pm and 10pm and Sunday 6pm. There are several regular shows, including Kick Out the Jams (music show), SERC MAPA (music show from Bangor College), Alan in Belfast (chat show), Collapse the Box (arts programming) and Discover the Archives (heritage and history shows). Scottish Moments profiles programming from Edinburgh made by the Institute for Local TV in association with Summerhall arts venue. NVTV also shares content with Latest TV in Brighton and shows from Brighton and Hove have been featured on NVTV also.
NVTV programming is broadcast weekly across America via MHz Networks on Today's Ireland to over 40 million households. Today’s Ireland (TI) connects American viewers with contemporary Ireland, blending news, business reports, cultural programmes and entertainment from Irish broadcasters, including RTE, TG4 and NVTV, as the first all-island channel.
- "Ofcom awards further local TV licences". Ofcom. 10 October 2012.