Derry to go ‘Hollywood’

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Derry seems set to reap the benefits of a new television station to be launched in America early next year.

‘Ireland Today,’ a free to air TV channel will reach in excess of 35 million homes from March. Thanks to one Derry man, Tony Culley-Foster, local content providers could feature heavily in the channel’s schedules.

Mr. Culley Foster explained that an agreement, which will see two hours of programming made in or about the North West of Ireland broadcast every week is close to being finalised. The US based Derry man has been in negotiations with Derry City Council, The Culture Company, The Playhouse, University of Ulster, The North West Regional College and policy makers in Dublin and Belfast. Tony Culley-Foster returned to Derry last week as part of the preparations for the launch, accompanied by Frederick Thomas who owns MHZ Networks on which ‘Ireland Now’ will be braodcast.

“It was a series of positive meetings,” said Culley-Foster. “We are very hopeful that the deals can be tied up as soon as possible. In fact, Fred was so impressed by Derry and Donegal he has already promised to bring his family here for a holiday.

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed that he would like to represent Ireland at the USA launch of the channel in America on March 17 of next year.

“It really is a great way to market Ireland, North and South, to the entire USA,” said Mr. Culley-Foster. “We have taken a North-South and Anglo Irish approach to programming.”

Mr. Foster said that an agreement with the cultural partnership could even see City of Culture events broadcast live across the US.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Derry,” said Mr. Culley-Foster.

“There will be programmes from Derry, Dublin and Belfast. There will be advertising and sponsorship, wherever the programme originates will also be co-branded. It really is a fantastic opportunity for Derry. There will be no second bite of the cherry though as other cities are eager to come on board.”

It is clearly Mr. Culley Foster’s hometown which he is most determined to see featured on the schedules.

“The whole thing happened after Derry journalist William Allen phoned me and said the City of Culture bid needed help in getting the message out there.”

He said: “I had to sell the channel first of all as other providers have tried similar projects but with different business models. After we agreed to progress with the channel, it was easy to market Derry and the City of Culture content to Fred.”

Fred is Frederick Thomas, the man behind the launch of MHZ Network which broadcasts, among other international suppliers, Al Jazeera, France 24, France 2, SABC, RAI, FujiSankei, France 2, and Russia Today across the USA.

Mr. Tony Foster has worked in America since emigrating there in 1971. Since then he has built his reputation with 30 years of top-level management experience.

Mr. Culley-Foster’s work both in business and as a lobbyist has earned him Public Service Commendations from no less than five separate United States presidents.

George W. Bush said of his work: “Your efforts profoundly influence the life of your community and they are a shining example for us all.”

It is that sentiment that he is hoping helps Derry and Donegal “in a tangible way” when ‘Ireland Now’ is launched.