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Media industry chiefs and top politicians welcome axing of Kent TV

PUBLISHED: 17:17 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:28 23 August 2010

INDEPENDENT media industry chiefs have welcomed the Kent County Council decision to scrap Kent TV. The controversial council-run internet service, funded by £1.5 million of taxpayers money, is due to be axed next month. On Tuesday leader Paul Carter sai

INDEPENDENT media industry chiefs have welcomed the Kent County Council decision to scrap Kent TV.

The controversial council-run internet service, funded by £1.5 million of taxpayers money, is due to be axed next month.

On Tuesday leader Paul Carter said the closure of KentTV, which costs £600,000 a year to run, was part of a multi-million pound cost-cutting exercise.

It was unveiled by Sir Bob Geldof and Kent County Council bosses in September 2007, with Geldof's company Ten Alps currently running the station.

But since its high-profile launch the web station has come under scathing criticism from opposition leaders and media companies.

News it has been scrapped was welcomed by the Newspaper Society and Archant London - publishers of your Times/Reporter and other leading local newspapers in and around the capital and Essex.

Newspaper Society communications director Lynne Anderson said: "Kent TV proved to be a costly and pointless experiment into providing local news and information which is already provided at no cost to the taxpayer by trusted independent local newspapers and their websites across Kent.

"It has attracted alot of criticism and has rightly been axed. Councils do have a duty to provide information about council services but they clear should not be in the media business - whether in print, online or broadcast - promoting their own version of the news and competing with the only voices which can hold them to account."

Kentish Times series group editor Melody Foreman explained: "The opposition to the use of taxpayers' money in this way has been illuminated in parliament with some of our Kent and London MPs taking action on our behalf. Last month there was an Early Day Motion to debate the issue raised by Paul Burstow, MP. He pointed out how council funded media was often loss-making and yet it was used to publicise statutory notices and real local newspapers were losing much needing advertising revenue.

"The culture minister, Ben Bradshaw, has already rightfully commented on the situation saying local newspapers are the lifeblood of our democracy."

Leader of the county's Liberal Democrat opposition Trudy Dean disputed claims the service would enable massive savings.

She said: "Kent TV was a project which should never been launched at the taxpayers' expense. There is nothing wrong with community TV but not when it is being paid for by the taxpayer and not by a council that is using it for its own agenda. That money could have gone on any number of the services the council is required to offer such as filling potholes, clearing the snow from the roads, caring for the elderly or improving our schools. Almost anything the council is required to do."

Announcing the closure on Tuesday, Paul Carter said: "Kent TV has proved itself to be a brave and bold innovation and we have learned a great deal from it.

"However, we are living in different and difficult economic times compared with when the pilot was launched in September 2007.

"In difficult times our spending has to be prioritised. We have therefore decided that Kent TV will not continue when the pilot period ends in March 2010."

Despite opposition Mr Carter insists the channel was a success and particularly appealed to younger residents, through song writing and animation competitions.

The channel has also been broadcasting its own soap opera about young people's health issues, called Hollywould and another programme called Animate and Create.

Both programmes were criticised by the Taxpayers Alliance as "not value for money."

Ray Parker, former Kent Labour county councillor and former Gravesham mayor, said: "It's good riddance to Kent TV. This scheme has been a massive waste of taxpayers money from start to finish. It was launched at a cost of £1.5 million to the taxpayer. There are far better things to have spent taxpayers' money on than this, like caring for the elderly and improving our roads. Paul Carter has said it will close because of difficult economic times. There is never a good economic time to launch something like this.

"This is not something a local authority should have ever done, it has been a waste of time, and quite frankly it didn't work."

Roger Gough, cabinet member for corporate Support services and performance management at Kent County Council said: "This is not a decision that we have taken lightly. We have listened to feedback from many sources. We have carried out an independent review of Kent TV and we have taken all the available data into account, including assessing the benefits were we to go forward."

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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