MEDIA: PROFILE; London’s cable guy: Julian Aston, managing director, Channel One

The Daily Mail and General Trust-owned cable TV station Channel One has had its detractors since it launched less than two years ago. Its managing director Julian Aston faced a number of them at a Royal Television Society dinner last week.

The Daily Mail and General Trust-owned cable TV station Channel One has

had its detractors since it launched less than two years ago. Its

managing director Julian Aston faced a number of them at a Royal

Television Society dinner last week.



Industry stalwarts questioned the channel’s ability to produce quality

programmes on shoe string budgets and suggested the quality of

journalism could never hope to compete with longer established, better-

resourced channels. The slight grin on Aston’s face made it clear none

of the jibes were new.



Aston, 51, is well placed to answer his critics - he has come from the

same breeding ground as most of them and now provides a poaching ground

for his larger rivals. He started as a floor assistant at the BBC in the

1960s and spent 15 years as a documentary producer/director with the BBC

and ITV. In 1984 he developed and launched satellite programme services,

including Music Box and Premiere, for Thorn EMI’s cable and satellite

division. In 1988 he formed New Era Television - a consortium with

Associated Newspapers and Yorkshire TV to supply programming to BSB’s

Now channel.



He led the successful bid for Teletext as MD. In November 1993, he

headed Associated Newspapers’ bid to launch Channel One and was

appointed managing director a month later.



In his speech to the RTS, Aston claimed that Channel One is now watched

by almost as many people as Sky, and more than NBC Super Channel or CNN.

Taking a swipe at industry practices that he said had made TV production

a ‘black art’, he commented: ‘Our industry has been restrained and

constricted by medieval attitudes, with long apprenticeships, and a

range of demarcation lines which ensured that the maximum number of

people were employed for the longest period of time. But new channels

mean a new approach, you have to think differently.’



And hitting back at claims of poor production standards in cable TV,

Aston added: ‘Although Channel One is exclusively on cable, you will

notice that it is neither wobbly, out of focus, or sub-standard in any

technical way.’



He said he was not trying to compete with the news services offered by

mainstream terrestrial channels but was providing the ‘Cinderella’ of

British broadcasting - local news. And so convinced is he of the quality

of his programmes that he has issued a challenge to his rivals: pass a

programme commission to Channel One and it will produce it at half its

given budget, with a money back guarantee if it fails to satisfy.



The lower costs at Channel One are possible because of its use of video

journalists who shoot their own material. Daily output consists of one

hour ‘wheels’. The first half is devoted to news, weather, travel

reports and sports news while the second half consists of 30-minute

programmes covering fashion, motoring, entertainment and listings. Each

wheel can be repeated, wth amendments, throughout the day.



The channel has already been launched in Bristol with Liverpool and

Wolverhampton following later this year. According to Aston, all major

conurbations will have a Channel One by the end of 1998.

HIGHLIGHTS



1984 Developed and launched satellite programme services Thorn EMI

1988 Managing director New Era Television

19?? Managing director, Teletext

1993 Managing director, Channel One



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