30 July 2014

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‘Thuggish’ BBC under fire over dealings with local press

The BBC has come under fire for treating local newspapers as competitors and failing to credit them for stories.

At a conference organised by the Westminster Forum today, the corporation was accused of acting like the “thug at the end of the street” in its dealings with local media.

The BBC also faced opposition from local press bosses over plans to increase the amount of local content on its websites.

Among those speaking out at the conference were Geraldine Allinson, chief executive of the KM Group and last year’s president of the Newspaper Society, and Local World chief executive Steve Auckland.

Geraldine called on the BBC to work on a constructive basis with local newspapers “instead of consistently treating us as a competitor”.

She said: “We should be able to have a far more symbiotic relationship than at the moment. They consistently promote Facebook and Twitter, but when it comes to one of our local papers they say ‘a local councillor spoke to a local paper’, why can’t they even say our name? It is ridiculous.”

Steve agreed, saying most of the BBC’s stories were broken by local newspapers.

“Local titles tend to break the stories, that’s where they tend to emanate from and go from there. Local press and local media teams,” he said.

Simon Enright, editor of local TV at the BBC conceded that the corporation should credit local news sources where appropriate.

“Where people have stories and they are not attributed on a BBC website they should be. Absolutely we should,” he said.

Tim Kirkman, the head of the London Evening Standard’s local TV initiative, told the same event: “There is a thug at the end of the street and that is the BBC.”

The Standard, now owned by the Lebedev family, has won the Ofcom licence to broadcast Local TV services in the capital.

Geraldine went on to question the BBC’s local online ambitions following the recent report by the BBC Trust that it should increase its local content.

She said:  “I think that is a hugely worrying statement.  It is creep. Four years ago Mark Thompson made the decision that there didn’t need to be any more local content on BBC sites.”

7 Comments

  1. Mark Andrews, Cahrterhouse Square, EC1

    I wholeheartedly support Tim Kirkman’s comment. Thank goodness they (ES) have won an alternative platform. For too long, the BBC, lavishly paid for (£3billion guaranteed?) and delivering a patchy service at best has used other sources for its content. Attribution is all in today’s media and local journalists deserve the respect, recognition and frankly reward. I work in independent production and for us, ‘non-attribution’ usually results in a court case (and not necessarily to our advantage)! Pay the dues.

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  2. Dave Hill, Catford

    Don’t get me started on the BBC. I remember being local hack and the Beeb calling up demanding information as if I was their news slave. When I refused to help they would make comments like “I am not sure you understand, this is the B….B….C”. Whenever I was cheeky enough to ask for money for a photograph they would quite often say: “I am afraid we can’t pay for the photo – things are very tight here at the BBC at the moment.” Please – give me a break. They have entire department dedicated to ‘pronunciation’. That’s true by the way. Arrogant and inefficient.

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  3. Pj

    Local papers hate the BBC,never help them out, unless theres a tip off fee of course,so why would the BBC return the favour,they all dislike the BBC,but they all want a job there !

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  4. Bluestringer

    BBC local radio appears to have given up hope recently. Their breakfast bulletins are more often than not led by national stories thinly-laced with read-overs of stuff picked up from the regional media.
    But I can’t say I’ve ever found their staff to be “thuggish” in any way. Quite the opposite in fact.

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  5. Fresh coriander

    The BBC does work with local press, but it tends to be on the “all mates from the wine bar” principle. So they will scratch backs for certain titles and try to put down the opposition if they can. But Dave Hill is right, they have a rather snobby approach and as far as local TV and radio is concerned, Alan Partridge is spot on. Half the time the people who phone from the BBC are unpaid interns called Jocasta or Henry and they have absolutely no idea what makes the local press tick.
    And the presenters, the dears, fondly imagine the world is out there listening to their every word.

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  6. New Listener, Peterborough

    Here in Peterborough the current debate is around whether the local newspaper is in the pocket of the council from which it receives advertising revenue.

    Here is an example:
    http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/business/business-news/anger-at-peterborough-energy-park-legal-advice-1-5142926

    The BBC locally as nationally appears to be in the pocket of the EU from which it also receives income, and under the cosh of Government which seeks to expand its influence into every aspect of private and public life.

    Neither of them place the public first. Both seek to bamboozle readers and listeners, and squirrel away information that could go some way to clarifying the situation.

    These are obviously wild and unsubstantiated claims, but I do believe they fairly well reflect the true situation.

    I would argue the best interests of the local press would be served by coming clean as well as they can and putting Joe Public first in their editorial decisions.

    This of course would require a huge upheaval in the political landscape, and in the absence of any meaningful change, both parties know they are are at heart robbers and bandits, arguing over the spoils.

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  7. Aman

    The BBC are almost impossible to work with and have nothing but disdain for local papers – although they are rather fond of following up our stories.
    The BBC press office is a great example of its arrogance – one of the least helpful I’ve come across. I used to help BBC reporters in my earlier career, but after so many years of it being a one-sided relationship, I won’t give the BBC anything anymore.

    The simply fact is they can’t do local properly without hurting exisiting local media, so maybe they shouldn’t do it all.

    The national site is far more important as all our national papers have political agendas and can’t be trusted as much as the local press. Just a shame the BBC’s news service is in such a state at the moment. As well as the Saville and Panorama stuff, it’s become so obsessed by balance it’s ignoring important stories for fear of upsetting the Government.

    Maybe if they hired more local press types rather than Oxbridge grads with little (life or journalism) experience, things would become more professional and dare I say trustworthy again.

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