It was billed as a new dawn for regional television, providing a voice for local people and celebrating communities. Fronted by presenting legend Dame Esther Rantzen That’s Solent TV was due to bring a new-style of magazine broadcasting to the region But just six months after launching the station is facing testing times after it’s celebrity backer quit along with the chair of the board of directors. Both Esther Rantzen and Mary McAnally, a former Managing Director of Meridian, have left That’s Solent TV with immediate effect.

Ms Rantzen blamed commitments to other organisations and her charity work for the move.
It is a major blow for the station as hopes were pinned on the Hampshire-based television personality to give That’s Solent a chance to reach audiences on screens across the south.

The station is also under fire after a complaint was made to the National Union of Journalists that suggested staff were on a minimum or non-existent wage and the show has also been criticised for poor footage quality.

Ms Rantzen, 74, told the Daily Echo she was aware of the complaint but that her decision to leave was not connected.
The New Forest-based presenter, said: “I haven’t been visiting That’s Solent on a regular basis or putting programme ideas to it, which is not enough to take board responsibilities.
“Mary and I discussed our resignations together but we have different reasons for leaving. I had very high hopes and believe in community television.

I have great responsibilities to my elderly helpline, Silver Line and Childline which I need to focus on.
Ms Rantzen was a director of the That’s Media consortium which was awarded the licence to run a local TV service in the south beating off a bid by Solent University.
Esther then became a Vice President of the That’s TV group when the Solent show started in November.

She added: “It’s very early days for the company and I wish them all the best. I was hoping to reflect this lively, vibrant area but I don’t think I can be involved.
“I know there have been complaints but funding is always challenging. I hope the staff feel they are gaining good experience but I wouldn’t want to be associated with any company whose staff didn’t feel they were being treated fairly.”

The NUJ confirmed that they were aware of the complaints regarding That’s Solent TV which is a news programme available to Freeview viewers across Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Chief executive Daniel Cass confirmed to the Daily Echo that both Ms Rantzen and Mrs McAnally had left. He said their departure would not affect the day-to-day running of the station as the roles they held were largely executive positions on the board.

Daniel Cass said: “I am still very good friends with Esther and Mary, they have good reasons for not being on the board, they were very committed and were invaluable when we launched so I have a great appreciation to them and hopefully they will remain great supporters of That’s Solent.

“I have not seen any complaints so could not comment on that but the news is produced and managed by qualified journalists.”

He added that he was happy with how the station was performing and that they had been getting good feedback from their viewers. Mr Cass said the station was delivering what they set out to. “We have a good team,” he added.

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By Expat