KM Group considers move into local TV

Kent newspaper publisher KM Group is considering a move into local TV following its failed bid to buy a group of titles from Northcliffe Media last month.

Group chair Geraldine Allinson said a move into local TV would be a ‘natural step’for the publisher but admitted its failure to acquire seven weekly newspapers in October could hold it back.

The deal fell through when the Office of Fair Trading referred the decision to the Competition Commission despite a warning from the media regulator Ofcom that both companies could be forced to close titles if the bid was scuppered.

In August the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt identified 65 towns and cities across the UK which could host new local TV stations from 2014, including Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent.

‘We are looking at local TV because it would make sense,’said Allinson. ‘To serve a local community going forward we believe it is important that we can do it across many different platforms.”

KM Group owns several radio stations and its website already runs TV-style broadcast bulletins.

‘It’s because we have the broadcast journalists and the print journalists that we’re able to provide that service online, but it is still subsidised by the newspaper activity,’said Allinson.

But she also described her disappointment over the OFT decision and said the estimated costs of more than £500,000 involved in a Competition Commission review was too much for the company, which had seen revenue steadily fall over the last four years.

‘Local TV would be the next natural step for us, but when we have decisions like the one the OFT has made, it makes it hugely difficult for us to go forward with ideas like local TV because we believe we’re being held back in other areas.”

She also questioned the business model for local TV, telling a Parliamentary committee this week: ‘We still don’t know all the facts about it and it’s difficult at the moment to see that it’s going to produce a significant enough audience to generate advertising revenue enough to cover the costs of doing it.”

But she added: ‘If anyone is going to launch local TV in Kent I hope it would be us, because we already have the journalists, we should be the best at providing any news service… we should be able to do it better than anyone else.’

Commenting on the OFT decision she said the Newspaper Society (of which she is president) had discussed the matter with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and was also due to speak with the Office of Fair Trading.

‘But my understanding is nobody can do anything about it,’she said. ‘The decision has been made,”

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