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Coronavirus Media

STV chief: media should be working together to support local businesses

By Simon Pitts, Chief executive

April 14, 2020 | 5 min read

This crisis is bringing out the best in British business. And in my neck of the woods, Scottish business.


Simon Pitts

A Glasgow taxi company and a chip shop have teamed up to deliver fish suppers to hungry NHS staff; gin makers in Harris, Caithness and Kirkwall are switching production to hand sanitizer; and a Highland house builder is sponsoring a food bank. An engineering firm has donated 500 protective masks to a hospital in Inverness; one of Glasgow’s best loved Italian restaurants has diverted its resources to cooking and delivering meals for the homeless; and a cat and dog home in Aberdeen is offering free pet food deliveries to those in need.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of small businesses are innovating and adapting to do their bit and to stay afloat during the greatest crisis of our lifetime. And that’s before we even get to the thousands of community charities working tirelessly to help those hit hardest, many of whom are now on the brink of going under themselves.

The media is brilliant at stepping up to help charities and vulnerable people in times of crisis. Witness the news that BBC Comic Relief and Sport Relief will be joining forces for a night of fundraising later this month, or radio’s Cash for Kids campaign to help families hardest hit by coronavirus, or ITV’s Million Claps to raise money for the NHS. Indeed in the last few days our very own STV Children’s Appeal has distributed over £1m in emergency coronavirus funding to hundreds of struggling charities across Scotland, and this week we launch our own mass fundraiser in partnership with the Duke of Cambridge’s National Emergency Trust.

Worthy initiatives, all of them, that will help many thousands of people both now and over the difficult months ahead. Media organisations using their powerful marketing shop windows as a force for good.

But what about the local businesses who are the lifeblood of our communities and the backbone of our local economies? Who’s helping them?

Some have already folded, others are right on the edge. Our sales team hear the devastating stories first hand. Yet many of these businesses are still working tirelessly to help others. In normal times I spend much of my working week telling anyone who’ll listen that TV is still the best way to make brands famous. It’s time we put our money where our mouth is. These local heroes should be up in lights, and that’s exactly what we’re doing at STV.

Last week we launched Local Lifeline, a £1m pot of money that will support small businesses and charities by providing free advertising across STV on air and online. These are enterprises that would never normally access TV advertising but they deserve to be celebrated and they need the profile more than ever. We’ll be sharing over 100 of these stories of resilience, innovation and community kindness on STV over the next few weeks. First up were Tulloch Homes, Isle of Harris Distillery, Instant Neighbour, Pillow Partners, Bernard Corrigan fishmongers, Glasgow Taxis and Coia’s Café. And we’re already talking to over 150 others, all doing what they can to support their communities despite the often devastating impact this pandemic is having on many of their own businesses. I’d invite other media companies to join us in celebrating their amazing work.

Local Lifeline is an extension of our successful Growth Fund, which launched 18 months ago to subsidise the cost of TV advertising slots for SMEs and has now supported over 250 Scottish businesses. Last month we doubled the fund to £20m to ensure that when the economy gets back on its feet after this crisis, TV advertising will be accessible to as many businesses as possible to help fuel that recovery.

Life has changed dramatically in the past month for all of us. Across the media industry we’re all in the same rocky boat but while we’re weathering the storm, we’ve never had a more captive audience.

That’s a massive opportunity to do some good. And prove the enduring power of our media at the same time.

Simon Pitts is chief executive at STV.

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