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Giant TVs to invade city centres

London Times | Dec 4 2003

THE BBC is planning to build giant outdoor television screens as permanent installations in city centres across Britain.
Passers-by will be able to view 24-hour coverage of sports events as well as quiz shows, news and soap operas, writes Will Iredale.

Because they will be permanent, they will also require planning permission. They will be installed in prominent locations for maximum coverage.

Birmingham, Cardiff and Newcastle councils confirmed last week that they were in talks about sites for the screens, each almost 300 sq ft and costing £250,000. This follows a six-month trial in Manchester when a giant screen was built in the City’s Exchange Square.

The BBC claims the idea will rejuvenate city centres and restore a sense of “community” by allowing crowds to watch prime events such as football internationals and the last night of the Proms.

However, the proposals have been attacked by anti-noise pollution campaigners who say pedestrians will be assailed by a din from programmes being blared out into public spaces.

Val Weedon, secretary of the UK Noise Association, an anti-noise pollution group, said she was “appalled” by the scheme. “It seems sick that noise from these giant screens will be forced upon people as they try to go about their daily lives,” she said.

Her criticism was shared by Julie Kirkbride, shadow spokesman for media and culture, who described it as an “insult” to council tax payers. “Expecting people to stand in the middle of the street to watch EastEnders in December is completely nonsensical,” she added.

Although the BBC will provide much of the content, local councils will also offer screen-time to local film-makers and community projects to show off their work. However, in Manchester this is currently little more than an hour a day.

The cost will be shared between the BBC — through the licence fee — councils, and Phillips, the electronics company, which is providing the hardware.

“People can catch up on news headlines or watch the latest edition of EastEnders,” said Bill Morris, project director of live events at the BBC. “We want it to become part of the civic infrastructure, as natural as having a theatre or a swimming pool.”
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