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KCC keeps hush-hush over cost of its Kent TV plans

County Hall in Maidstone
County Hall in Maidstone

KENT County Council is refusing to say how much its plans to set up its own TV station are likely to cost the taxpayer.

The council has also said it will not make public the findings of a consultants study about the initiative.

It said that doing so could compromise its negotiations with private companies.

County Hall sources have speculated that several hundred thousand pounds are being earmarked for the project, which was unveiled earlier this year as part of KCC’s four-year plan "Towards 2010".

It is understood the council is in the process of weighing up several tenders from contractors who have bid to run the service. County councillors have not yet considered any specific proposals.

The Kent Messenger Group sought details of the plans in a request made under the Freedom of Information Act. That request was refused, as was our appeal against that refusal.

In doing so, KCC confirmed it had commissioned a "full feasibility study" which had concluded there was a "powerful argument" for pressing ahead with the scheme. The council also confirmed that it had held several meetings with interested parties.

But while committed to "ensuring transparency of the project" KCC decided that releasing details of the feasibility study "would compromise the tender process" by giving a commercial advantage to any organisation that might want to become involved.

The public interest was better served by not releasing background information at this stage, it said.

Opposition parties say they are dismayed they have been given no chance to debate the merits of the scheme and are unlikely to be able to do so until after a contract has been awarded.

Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy said: "If KCC is convinced this is a priority, then it should be putting forward the case for it openly. We need to know to what extent this will be anything other than a party political tool which is being paid for by the council taxpayer."

Kent County Council has defended its plans to press ahead with Kent TV, saying it could "get more people involved in local issues."

In a statement, the council said a dedicated county council television service could "open up democracy for groups who find it hard to participate in local issues and projects, such as young mums at home, the elderly and handicapped."

The authority now offers live broadcasts of key council meetings and says that attracts "hundreds of viewers."

The service could also make money via advertising and sponsorship.

For KCC's full response see separate story headed 'Kent TV - an innovate way to showcase the county'.

Medway leads way for £7,000

WHILE KCC works out how it will run its own television service and who will provide it, Medway Council has stolen a march on its neighbour. Medway launched its own pilot video TV service - Medway Matters TV - this week via the council website and says it is doing so for little more than £7,000.

Like Kent, the council says that it wants to try to reach a new audience via digital technology.

Medway Council deputy leader Cllr Alan Jarrett said: "Communicating well with our residents is key to ensuring our service delivery is as good as it can possibly be. Medway Matters TV gives people another opportunity to see what is going on in the area and is embracing technology that is part of our everyday lives."

The main costs of the pilot project has been the purchase of a video camera for £5,864 and computer software costing £700. A council spokeswoman said that the running costs per month would be between £10 and £15.

The programmes are filmed, edited and produced by Medway Council’s Communications Team, using the council’s own television camera and editing facilities.

See for yourself on www.medway.gov.uk.

First 'not for profit' TV

THE model for Kent TV could be the UK’s first "not-for-profit" television station, Solent TV, which is based in the Isle of Wight and covers the south coast.

This started broadcasting in 2002 after winning a community licence from the Independent Television Commission - now known as Ofcom.

The service, which features a regular evening news bulletin downloaded by around 15,000 people a week, is independent of the Isle of Wight council and what it broadcasts is governed by Ofcom. No other organisation is involved or has any influence.

Money made through advertising is ploughed back into community projects.

To see how Kent TV might look, you can watch Solent TV on www.solent.tv.

For broadcasts of KCC meetings, go to www.kent.gov.uk and follow the link to council webcasts.

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