THE man who is offering Londonderry the chance to become the only city in Ireland to showcase itself to a potential audience of 38m Americans is to receive a major honour in Washington DC, as it was confirmed the Irish premier is to make a televised address to launch his latest venture
On March 7 Fred Thomas, founder and CEO of MHZ Worldview Channel will receive the World Affairs Council-DC - 2013 Global Communications Award.
The award marks his achievement in bringing more international television content to the USA than all other networks combined. Mr Thomas is responsible for bringing Al Jazeera, Russia Today, France Today, China Today and many other channels to US audiences.
The honour comes just ten days before the US launch of his latest venture, Today’s Ireland, which will launch with events in Dublin, Belfast and possibly Londonderry before the major launch in Washington on St Patrick’s Day.
Mr Thomas’s UK and Ireland representative is Londonderry native, Tony Culley-Foster who has helped tie up deals with major players on both sides of the border, including RTE, TV3, TG4, Oireachtas Broadcasting, Irish Film Board. NI Screen have indicated their commitment too.
Recently he attended a meeting in Londonderry to move forward the offer to the UK City of Culture, Initially the city was offered the chance to showcase itself on a two hour slot every Saturday evening, repeated on Sundays. This matched the offer to The Gathering - the Republic’s initiative to bring home its diaspora.
Mr Culley-Foster interrupted talks in Dublin to race north for the meeting with two media officers from Derry City Council and the Culture Company. It’s understood the city will provide 30 minutes’ per month content to the new channel.
A couple of days earlier he was feted at a special dinner hosted by the British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominic Chilcott, with prominent TV, arts, business and government representatives in attendance.
Mr Chilcott echoed the position of the Irish government, saying Today’s Ireland has the full support of the British government also.
“Derry-Londonderry is the only city in Ireland that has been given this opportunity,” said Mr Culley-Foster, who persuaded Mr Thomas to include his home city due to the fact it is the first ever UK City of Culture,
Mr Culley-Foster believes Londonderry has a unique opportunity to showcase itself to a massive US audience, to attract visitors and inward investment.
He highlights the fact that major US companies such as DuPont and Seagate are already doing business here, and would no doubt welcome a chance to send a message to other potential US investors about how they have been welcomed in Londonderry.
One thing that he fervently hopes can happen is that the Culture Company can seek an agreement with the BBC to allow the hugely successful ‘Sons and Daughters’ concert that launched the UK City of Culture year, to be broadcast on the Today’s Ireland channel.
“I was so proud of the compliments I was hearing about the quality of that broadcast. It’s my great hope that a way can be found to allow it to be shown on Today’s Ireland, topped and tailed with a message from the UK City of Culture.
“It’s my intention that the exposure of this city will be magnified in 2014 and 2015 as we expand to a 24/7 channel in the USA.”
Mr Culley-Foster said that minimum expense should be required due to the resources available in the city, including the University of Ulster, North West Regional College, The Playhouse and organisations with TV production expertise.
Asked about progress on the offer to provide content to Today’s Ireland, a spokesperson for the Culture Company said it “is working to progress a content agreement to provide cultural stories from the extensive 2013 programme”.