Heart Kent closure makes kmfm the only commercial music station based in Kent

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When James Heming and Becky Ives said their tearful farewells to listeners to Heart Kent’s breakfast show late last month, it marked the end of yet another chapter in local radio history. County.

For many, back in the ’80s and’ 90s, Invicta FM – as it was called before it was consumed by Heart and rebranded – was essential listening. Settled in the county he served, his name was everywhere and with his diet of old and new pop, he provided the soundtrack to the everyday lives of many.

But the world of radio has changed dramatically over the past few years with the deregulation of the industry resulting in a multitude of changes.

Former Heart Kent Studios at John Wilson Business Park in Whitstable – they ceased broadcasting there on May 31

Since its launch in 1984, Invicta has emerged in an era of hit singles sold in the millions, real excitement around the charts and without the internet.

Moving beyond his studios in Canterbury and Maidstone, he set up his last house, in 1991, in an industrial estate in Whitstable.

Then begins a period of changes of owners and quicksand that will eventually dictate its fate.

By the mid-1990s, the Radio Authority (which would later become part of Ofcom, the broadcast regulator) had granted a host of licenses to rival commercial stations in the county.

Garry and Laura's Breakfast kmfm - stock pic (11472897)
Garry and Laura’s Breakfast kmfm – stock pic (11472897)

As a result, Invicta found competition from TLR in Thanet, Medway FM, Neptune Radio in Folkestone and Dover, CTFM in Canterbury and KFM in Tonbridge and Sevenoaks – all of which took a share of the advertising revenue it relied on, as well. than its numbers of listeners.

In order to consolidate these threats nationwide, some of the major radio station owners began to merge, including, in 2005, Capital, then owner of Invicta, and the GWR group, which owned a multitude of stations including Classic FM, to create GCap Media.

In order to streamline content more cost effectively, much of the programming has become “networked” – in other words, the same shows that air across a large part of the country with only a pinch of local daytime content.

Just three years later, it was also consumed by a takeover by Global Radio which already owned Heart and Galaxy.

James Heming and Becky Ives said goodbye to Heart last week (10020576)
James Heming and Becky Ives said goodbye to Heart last week (10020576)

This decision would see the Heart brand deployed in a multitude of stations. Invicta would be one – spelling the end of its very Kentish name.

As Ofcom further relaxed local content regulations, the radio station once part of the fabric of the county began to fade for the Kent listener as less and less programming rolled out of its Whitstable base .

On May 31, 2019, after roughly 35 years of streaming from the county, Heart Kent Studios closed and local content merged into a vast southern area. It’s no longer a local radio station – now just an outpost of a large media conglomerate with no physical presence in the county.

When it closed, the only local content for the week was breakfast, where James Heming had run the ship for nearly 20 years, and the time slot.

Garry and Laura's Breakfast kmfm - stock pic (11472871)
Garry and Laura’s Breakfast kmfm – stock pic (11472871)

As for the small local stations which appeared in the 1990s, they were later bought by KM Media Group and became what is now called kmfm.

After years of gradual growth in which it has increasingly consumed Heart Kent’s audience, kmfm is now the only Kent-based commercial music station to broadcast across the county.

According to the latest RAJAR industry figures, an additional 10,000 people tune into kmfm each week, with some 210,000 weekly listeners – well beyond BBC Radio Kent and quickly approaching Heart Kent before dropping out of local broadcasts.

kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura leads the way with more than 130,000 listeners listening to the duo, also a record.

Head of multimedia news at KM Media Group, Nicola Everett, talks about his time at Invicta FM.

Growing up in Kent and listening to Invicta FM went hand in hand.

The Morning Zoo was the constant companion on the way to high school in the 90s.

However, I have to admit it was in a friend’s car as my mom preferred Invicta Supergold.

It was something I had never heard before. A whole radio team gets involved.

Nicola Everett, formerly at Invicta FM, now kmfm
Nicola Everett, formerly at Invicta FM, now kmfm

I wasn’t a radio geek but I was captivated by the show and the county presenters were mini-celebrities.

The radio was always present during the GCSE and A-level review, then during the university essay writing days.

My journey into the industry was through work experience at Medway FM and the opportunity to read a newsletter on the last day. I caught the virus and insisted on helping until they eventually hired me.

Two years later, I was asked to go for an interview at Invicta FM.

I joined the five-person press team at Whitstable Studios in 2001. At first, reading newsletters from sister station Capital Gold, I progressed through Invicta daytime hours and then downtime. driving and finally having breakfast with James Heming.

“It was something I had never heard before. A whole radio crew came together …” Nicola Everett

At the time, the station was broadcasting live 24 hours a day and I learned so much, not just about the news but about the entire radio industry.

It has been a fantastic time with wonderful opportunities and arguably one of the busiest new patches in the country outside of London.

And yes, I was even able to get on the traveling plane – it was real and I took off from a field on Sheppey.

I was only part of the Heart brand for a very short time and despite the fact that my career has evolved, it is still sad to see an old workplace close.

I have fond memories of my many years at Invicta FM and it is the people who made this time so wonderful.

‘I like to do kmfm’

There are few people still working to have played a pivotal role in the birth and evolution of pop music radio to this day.

Tony Blackburn, now 76, is one of them.

Starting his career as a broadcaster 55 years ago, he was one of the DJ pioneers on the pop pirate ship Radio Caroline, who tapped into teenagers’ desire for pop music radio, before joining the BBC Radio 1 programming for its 1967 launch – presenting its very first show.

Today, he continues his remarkable career on kmfm, broadcasting every Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Tony Blackburn (11910851)
Tony Blackburn (11910851)

He has followed with concern the devouring of local radio stations by the major media groups.

“The biggest mistake commercial radio has made in this country has just happened,” he says. “Authorize the takeover of local radio stations by large networks such as Global and Bauer [Absolute Radio, Magic, Kiss] and not having it really local.

“With the local radio you can talk about the events happening in the area, you understand the audience better; especially those who do the breakfast and driving time shows. And with all the outdoor broadcasts, which kmfm does, people like to see the people they’re listening to.

“Sometimes on the radios during the day, the DJ says next to nothing. The point is, we have Spotify, we have YouTube and all that stuff, and we really have to make the shows as entertaining as possible to get new listeners. They shouldn’t be just a jukebox.

“The biggest mistake commercial radio has made in this country has just happened …” Tony Blackburn

And the winner of two Lifetime Achievement Awards from Radio Academy and a former regular Top of the Pops presenter, he has no plans to hang up his headphones just yet.

“At kmfm, I choose the music I play on my own program and I am allowed to talk between records,” he says.

“I love to do kmfm. That’s what local commercial radio should be.”

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


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