‘Councils should not build TV services with public money’ – Press Gazette

Bob says 'come and have a go if you think you're good enough'

In my own life I’ve seen it a thousand times, where there was the old rock’n’roll establishment beating up the punks, which I was part of, or it was the Aid establishment beating up Band Aid and Live Aid. But the reality is that there was room for the Rolling Stones and the Clash; there was room for Save the Children and Live Aid and so too there’s room for Kent Messenger and Kent TV and they sort of supply completely different services; I get my daily paper every day, but I’m also online every day

So says Bob Geldof. One of the founders of uberindie TenAlps and the company running Kent TV, Kent County Councils broadband TV service. But he wasn’t just plucking the Kent Messenger out of the air.

There’s been an ongoing debate about Kent TV, the latest round of which has seen Kent Messenger Group chairman Geraldine Allinson use the Westminster Media Forum debate in London to stress that ‘Councils should not build TV services with public money’.

Of course of course Bob is bullish about the reasons for the Kent Messengers dislike of the project. In his exclusive interview with Kent TV(who else):

This spurious beating up of Kent TV, on the notion that it’s political is rubbish. It’s a commercial attack. So, do it honourably and compete with us. We’ll win because we’re better, and regardless of who initiated this in Kent, they showed foresight. so competing on the commercial level, I love it, I love the challenge and if we lose, we lose ‘cos we’re not good enough, but competing, playing footsie with your political pals, ah that’s naff and it’s not what business should do.

But KMG are not the only ones up in arms. The Press Gazette reports similar worries for ITV Local director of programming and content Lindsay Charlto

“When council taxpayers wake up to the fact that half a million pounds is being spent on a television service on their behalf, they may have something to say about it,” he said.

“If you replicated that across the country I think there would be a public outcry.

“My own view is they shouldn’t be building television networks with public money.”

Outcry at public money being spent on a public service? Really. Well, I suppose it depends on whether you take the public service view or the commercial view.

I think Paid Content pegged the motivation of the council when they reported on the Kent Messenger groups efforts, through FOI requests, to work out just how much this was costing:

In a way, this issue is a mirror of opposition to BBC Local video plans. Is it logical that a local authority launches a web video news operation? Yes – in these days of local news cutbacks, every local government should want to guarantee a line of communication with voters. The side-effect – that much-loved spectacle of competition between the council and its local newspaper.

I think the Kent Messenger are right to question where public money is being spent – -that’s the job of a journalist after all. But when Geraldine Allinson suggests that “Some would argue that is a very unlevel playing field.” You have to have some sympathy with Geldof.

For me the real problem here, and where I think it differs from the BBC question,  is that the regional media cannot compete here. It really is a catch 22.

They can’t get on board with the council as that will simply leave both open to accusations of bias. But they cannot compete with a product backed by that much money because they have no infrastructure to do it.

Rather than throw stones, it may be better to question the process but let it develop (and perhaps fail) on its own. In the mean time they should concentrate on sharpening and matureing that questioning voice in a multiplatform environment. Maybe then they would have something to compete with.

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