Kent Messenger Group to axe 61 jobs after company hit by £9m revenue drop

The Kent Messenger Group is to cut 61 jobs as part of a plan to avert ‘unsustainable annual trading losses’after the company’s revenues dipped £9m in revenue in the past year due to the credit crunch.

The family-owned publisher said today its revenues for the year had dipped by between 25 and 30 per cent because of the ‘poor economic climate”.

KM Group will also shut six offices: Dover, Faversham, Sittingbourne and Tunbridge Wells as well as its radio studios in Maidstone and Tonbridge with the work of all journalists working in them to be transferred to larger offices.

KM Group will be left with a total staff of 580 while those affected by redundancy will be in consultation with management until October 29. The company said it would offer professional support to all those affected by the cuts.

A statement to staff today said: ‘The media world is currently in upheaval as it suffers a big downturn in revenues as a result of the ‘credit crunch’ while at the same time it is adjusting to the market changes brought about by the growth of alternative media.”

Managing director Chris Bisco said: ‘We have a unique opportunity. We are the only media business in Kent that can offer integrated news, information and advertising services through press, radio and the internet for our readers, listeners, web visitors and customers.”

The restructuring of the business will also result in changes to shift patterns and days of work, staff were told today.

The statement, which admitted the news was ‘unsettling”, said that KM Group could not “rule out further changes” to the business but said the plan would “go a long way to ensuring the sustainability of the company for the future”.

Group chairman Geraldine Allinson said: “We hate to make anyone redundant but we have no alternative given the drop in our revenues if we are to maintain the strength of the company in the future.

“If our proposal goes ahead, we believe that the company has an exciting future. We would still employ over 580 people and have the most journalists and the biggest commercial staff of any media operation in Kent, all focused on serving their local communities and customers.”

KM Group’s newspapers claim a total weekly readership of 927,000 and a listenership for its seven kmfm radio stations of 154,000 a week. The company said its websites now have more than 200,000 unique visitors every month.

In April KM Group closed two free weeklies The Bromley Extra and Bexley Extra after it was decided they were both making unsustainable losses, affecting 30 staff.

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