Former BBC presenter Ashley Blake is set to get back behind a microphone as a presenter with Birmingham-based City TV – but the station’s launch has been delayed for six months.
The broadcaster is poised to resume his career four years after his release from a two-year jail term after he was convicted of wounding a teenager with a wooden pole at his Sutton Coldfield restaurant.
The broadcaster, now 44, told the Post that the long-awaited City TV launch would be a “new and different opportunity”.
However, work to get the new channel off the ground has not progressed as hoped, and initial plans to launch in April have been shelved, with the launch now pencilled in for September 2014.
“I have had lots of knocks in my life and it is about getting up again. I never thought that my career was over or that Ashley Blake was finished,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to have a successful career in Birmingham and I achieved that with the BBC. This is a new and different opportunity to pass on my skills that I have learnt to a new generation of broadcasters.
“It is not so much a relief to me – I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to do what I wanted to do in my TV career thanks to the BBC.
“I am a Birmingham boy, born and bred, and I have been working with Debra Davis and the team to bring local TV to Birmingham.
“I believe that Birmingham deserves its own local TV channel. When I was at the BBC, it was very hard to tell the Birmingham story because the BBC patch was so widespread.
“This is also about stepping back from the frontline and working behind the scenes – it is a new path, a new direction. This is a new and different opportunity to pass on my skills that I have learnt to a new generation of broadcasters.”
City TV chief executive Debra Davis said: “It is time that Ashley Blake was back on air. He has been a brilliant communicator and a fabulous presenter. I want to see him back on TV.”
She said Mr Blake was being lined up for a senior role at the station, which will broadcast as City 8 on channel eight of Freeview. “It is like the deputy head of news – it is about presenting, producing and training.”
Another well-known Birmingham broadcasting name, Mike Prince, who started his career with ATV in the mid-60s before working for Central and other ITV stations, will be City 8’s Programme Controller.
Revealing the launch was being delayed, Ms Davis said the birth of City 8 had been a ‘long haul’.
“This is about a small business which has started during a recession. It is a business with big ambitions and big results if we get it right.
“This has not been a swift race, it has been a marathon. I started four years ago and it has been a long haul.
“There have been issues, I would make no bones about it. We have had to overcome the doubters – there was a lot of scepticism in the media and we have had to develop a very strong business proposition.
“We believe that local TV will be good for Birmingham. We are trying to start a £3 million business when people do not understand local TV in this market. Even the media who understand TV do not understand how local TV works.
“We have to strengthen our executive team, we have identified prospective partners, investors and commercial interests.
“This is a 12-year licence, it will be on Channel Eight Freeview, it will cover 1.2 million households in Birmingham, including Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley.
“We will be launching, likely, in September. I do not think that anybody wants an August or July launch.
“We need business support and sponsorship. We have a series of business briefings to tell people about the packages available. We need the business community to help with our marketing and sales through good gossip.”