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Esther Rantzen behind bid for Southampton TV channel
4:10am Tuesday 21st August 2012 in Entertainments
FORMER That’s Life presenter Esther Rantzen could return to TV screens in Hampshire as it emerged she is part of a consortium bidding for a new local television station.
A rival bid from TV Solent is backed by Solent University, which would involve its staff and students from its professional broadcast operation in the venture.
Daniel Cass, the chief executive officer of That’s Media, confirmed Ms Rantzen would be vice president of programming at the proposed That’s Solent channel and would return to presenting duties. His company is also bidding to run a similarly titled local station in Oxford.
He said Ms Rantzen would present a Sunday lunchtime show in Southampton provisionally titled That’s Solent on Sunday.
It would have a magazine format, “not a million miles away” from That’s Life, he said, mixing more serious news with lighter, entertaining segments.
Ms Rantzen, 72, who fronted That’s Life for more than 20 years until the series was axed in 1994, said: “We will expose rogue plumbers and petty bureaucrats and then celebrate heroic grannies and talented pets”.
Mr Cass said Ms Rantzen would have an active “hands on” role behind the cameras supporting the channel’s news team.
He added Round the World Clipper Race founder and sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnson has been lined up to present marine-related programming.
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has invited bids for 21 new local television stations around the UK. More details of the 57 bids are expected to be published this week. The new licences will be awarded in the autumn.
The successful bidders will then have two years to get their stations up and running.
Solent University hired former regional ITV director Mark Southgate to lead its bid to set up the station at a premises within the university.
A spokeswoman said: “If it is successful TV Solent will not only deliver relevant and lively content to local audiences using a team of experienced professional staff, but running the station will also give significant benefit to the university’s students by providing a real-world opportunity for working in media planning and production.”
She added the university believed the bid had a “strong chance of success”.