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Regional group makes headlines on TV news

A household name in regional newspapers is going into partnership to add TV to its multi-media portfolio.

The KM Group has teamed up with the University of Kent to win a two-horse race for a local television licence serving Maidstone and Tonbridge, Ofcom has announced.

KMTV will provide dedicated local news and entertainment to the county town of Kent and surrounding areas, tapping into the publisher’s extensive experience in broadcasting and the university’s expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.

In addition to publishing 16 titles with a weekly circulation approaching 250,000, the family-owned Kent Messenger group operates a network of kmfm radio stations and the UK’s fastest-growing digital regional news network,

KM Group editorial director Ian Carter said the company’s experience in radio broadcasting put it in a good position to take the step into television.

“We are unique in that we have a team of reporters across the county who are used to gathering audio for our radio bulletins in addition to print and online stories,” he added.

“Our combined print, radio and online audience is huge – KentOnline reaches an average of 1.3m unique browsers every month alone – giving us a great opportunity to cross-promote our various platforms.”

Ian sees the university’s own top-ranked Centre for Journalism, with its international reputation for excellence, as “crucial to the success of this licence.”

He said: “Our journalistic resource coupled with the university’s expertise will make for a great team.”

University professor Tim Luckhurst, a former BBC editor with extensive experience in television journalism, will serve as head of KMTV’s editorial board.

Tim, who began his career on Radio 4’s Today programme and was a leading member of the team that designed and launched BBC Radio 5 Live, said: “It will allow us to produce high quality local TV journalism that will support local communities, enhance local democracy and promote local enterprise.

“The new channel will also enhance opportunity by offering our excellent students unique opportunities for work experience in a live newsroom.

“KMTV will allow the university to share its research and to showcase its superb range of arts and science activities.”

The name of the Kent Messenger has a unique heritage in the region. Apart from newspaper titles dating back 300 years and a county which boasts the birthplace of 15th century father-of-printing William Caxton and the writing home of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, the newspaper group’s stayed in the ownership of one family since 1890.

KM Group chairman Geraldine Allinson said she was delighted with Ofcom’s decision, adding: “Our existing portfolio encompasses print, digital and radio and we see local television as a natural extension to our publishing activities.

“We believe we are in a strong position to make local television work, as we already have such a strong bond with our readers, listeners and customers.”

Under the terms of the licence, KMTV must launch within two years. But the partnership plans to begin work as soon as possible – broadcasting from a dedicated studio constructed at the university’s Medway campus.