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London Live - the London-Only Mandate Is Clear

31/03/2014 09:07 BST | Updated 30/05/2014 10:59 BST

I love London. I was born south of the river, spent a decade living right in the centre before taking a five-year break to see if New York City was really comparable (they're both great) and returning to raise a family in the West. I believe it's the only place in Britain where I could have transformed my life from my Croydon council estate origins, and been given every opportunity entirely without connections.

Like many, my formative years were spent heading into 'town' for Kensington Market and Camden by day, and Soho and all manner of great clubs and venues by night. No tube or night bus for me. Like so many south Londoners, that hourly through-the-night train to Brighton was a lifeline to life-transforming wider horizons. It still is. I wouldn't be the same person without being exposed to the rich cultural, commercial and community diversity that only London could offer me.

However, all my life, I've been frustrated that such obvious and vibrant diversity wasn't fully reflected in the capital's media. I was once given the chance to do something about it before - via thelondonpaper (RIP) - but today, although the Standard is unrecognisably better than its former self, the broadcast media still doesn't reflect the modern capital well.

That's about to change. At last. If you've read the London Evening Standard recently, or seen any of the weekend media you can hardly fail to have noticed that this evening sees the launch of London Live, the first 24 hour a day, seven day a week general entertainment channel devoted exclusively to the capital. It's the result of a franchise auction held by the Department for Culture Media and Sport last year that awarded 19 licences around the country.

Of course the Standard's colourful proprietor, Evgeny Lebedev, is backing the new channel to the tune of £15m a year. Its two new studios have been carved out of the Kensington offices of the Standard and its sister newspapers, the Independent and i.

Lebedev and his CEO, Andrew Mulllins, have already taken the once ailing Standard free and returned it to profit; and then launched i, a concise, quality spin-off from the Independent, which has defied the many doubters to establish itself with a 300,000 circulation (I was the launch editor).

London Live may be the biggest gamble of all, of course. It launches into the perceived wisdom that younger people aren't watching television any longer, and sometimes not even owning a set.

Perhaps. And perhaps there's another view. London Live's target audience are actually watching more video than ever before, but doing so on You Tube, catch-up services, VoD and boxed sets, both physical and digital.

Why YouTube? Because that's the only place so many London cultures, by race or by interest, can find themselves reflected; see people like them. So, instead of broadcasters throwing their hands up in the air and giving up, why not try making programmes that 16-34 year-old urban Londoners want to watch. Then, distribute them via whatever device or medium viewers prefer.

Like so many editors I hate that demographic targeting, largely forced upon us by the ad industry. London Live is actually aimed more at a state of mind, defined by the channel as 'social explorers'. A 24 or 44-year-old Londoner may dress the same, go to the same films, gigs, plays and restaurants. They will want to know what's hot and what's not, even if the 44-year-old may not die a social death by not going on the first night.

The new channel will cater for this attitude, both in its programming and five and a half hours a day of news and current affairs, both devoted entirely to London. No local rival has the capability to do this, no national broadcaster the inclination.

The London-only mandate is clear. And, it's liberating. It allows the channel to acquire cult London-focused favourites like Misfits, Peep Show, the Shadow Line and Twenty Twelve to attract viewers who will hopefully stick around to watch new commissions like the foodie show Food Junkies, the amazing freestyle footballers of F2 Kicks Off, the drama and talent of Drag Queens Of London, music shows Soundclash and Balcony TV and comedy like Alex Zane: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

There are also You Tube Transfers like The T Boy Story, Brothers With No Game and All About The Mackenzies, names mainstream audiences may not yet know, but You Tubers will; names with huge social media following.

In every respect, from adventurous content commissioning; to the use of Nikon DSLR cameras in the studios and on the road; its UGC heavy hyperlocal website, and having social media baked into its DNA, London Live is launching like a 2014 multi-media brand not a 20th Century television channel. As such, the entire media industry's eyes will be upon it. Now it just needs viewers to watch it too.

London Live launches 31 March on Freeview 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159 within the M25 and is streamed nationally on londonlive.co.uk