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Credit: Image by jsawkins on Flickr. Some rights reserved
It was 25 years ago that Tom Arms set up FENS - Future Events News Service. Before the rise of the internet FENS was a weekly printout of a diary of events which he hand-delivered to London newspapers.

As technology developed, so did FENS, which was transported onto the internet and has now grown to a diary of planned news events such as meetings, conferences and anniversaries. The digital list is "sold all around the world", with international broadcasters among their client list.

But after 25 years Arms was looking for a new challenge. So having sold FENS he decided to set up LookAheadTV, which takes the same idea of equipping people with information on upcoming news events to the broadcast platform.

The only difference is that while FENS works on a business-to-business relationship, LookAheadTV is aimed directly at the consumer and hopes to give them the power to "participate, rather than merely spectate", he told Journalism.co.uk.

Arms said the idea was prompted by the events of the Arab Spring and the "public participation in the political process".

"In order for them to participate the key to it was knowing about things in advance," he added. "Sometimes it was a few days in advance, sometimes it was a few minutes or a few hours in advance."

"I think the Arab Spring has taught us that there is scope for a B2C [business-to-consumer] Future Events News Service and that the best medium for consumers these days, or the most used medium for consumers these days is television, or not necessarily television as such, but broadcast video, whether they get it on the web, on their mobile phone or on their small screens or big screens."

LookAheadTV, which officially launched earlier this year and has spent the last few months piloting an African news programme, uses the FENS data to produce short news broadcasts aimed at "the Twitter generation".

"I think the logical next step is to tell people what will be happening ... basically to move the news agenda on," he added.

But he said it does not plan to "go into analysis".

"What we're aiming at is anywhere between two and six minute broadcasts and packing in up to 20 stories into those broadcasts. These can either go up as standalones on websites or they can be tacked onto existing programmes."

The current pilot is for a general news programme for Africa, and in the New Year this will be built on with programmes also covering business and another covering sport.

A website for LookAheadTV, which will act as a "shop window", is due to launch by the end of January.

Arms added that the local television initiative in the UK could also prove to be a "wonderful platforms for us".

"It occurs to me that each of those channels is going to be looking for news content. They're all going to have very tight budgets, we can produce this very economically and we could do one for every one of those 25 channels."

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