Kent Messenger freedom of information appeal reveals true cost of council-run TV project

The Information Commissioner has ordered Kent County Council to release more details about its £1.4million internet TV project following a successful challenge by the Kent Messenger Group.

KM Group political editor Paul Francis has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the county council over its refusal to disclose information about a feasibility study for Kent TV under the Freedom of Information Act. The station was launched in September last year and is run by Ten Alps, a company founded by Sir Bob Geldof.

Now the Information Commissioner has ruled the county council was wrong to withhold some of the information the KMG had originally asked for. He also said KCC had been wrong to provide the paper with only a censored version of a briefing note provided to county councillors and has ordered the full briefing note to be published.

In his ruling, the Information Commissioner said he accepted the Kent Messenger’s argument that ‘the council should be open and transparent about the costs incurred by the taxpayer”. As a result, it was in the public interest ‘to disclose the costs borne by the public for the establishment and maintenance of the TV channel”.

The information now released reveals that at the time KCC was considering setting up Kent TV, it had considered whether to establish it as a stand-alone digital TV station broadcast on Sky. It also reveals the yearly running costs could be as much as £695,000 a year – nearly £200,000 more than it has actually set aside.

The county council has always argued that Kent TV will become self-financing, but has set aside £1.2million to cover running costs and in addition spent £200,000 on set-up costs.

Political editor Paul said: “Our argument had always been that the public interest was served by the disclosure of all this information because KCC is using taxpayers’ money for Kent TV. The Information Commissioner clearly agrees with us. Although it is disappointing that not all the information has been released, we feel vindicated in pursuing the matter with the Commissioner.”

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