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Regional publishers want BBC to pay for journalists, says report

Ashley-Highfield2-e1401302531277Regional publishers want the BBC to pay for their journalists to cover courts and council meetings, according to reports.

The Times newspaper says publishers represented by the News Media Association are seeking £14m a year from the BBC’s licence fee income to cover public service reporting.

In September, BBC Director-General Tony Hall unveiled plans for a pool of 100 public service journalists who would provide coverage of councils and courts for both the corporation and commercial news outlets.

The project was given the “thumbs down” by the regional press, which accused the corporation of “back door expansionism”.

But according to The Times, regional publishers and the corporation are also discussing a deal worth up to £3m which would see the BBC would pay for regional news reports as well as committing to improving its current links with local newspapers.

In April 2015, the BBC announced it would set up a content-sharing deal with the regional press as part of its Local Live web feed, which will be introduced across England by the middle of this year.

The scheme sees the BBC’s local news websites display links to stories carried by participating titles in the areas they serve.

The proposed new deal would fund 364 public service journalists, according to reports.

Ashley Highfield, pictured above left, Johnston Press chief executive, told the Times: “[The BBC] would be setting aside an amount to fund council reporting. But instead of the 100 journalists being employed by the BBC, and effectively being tanks on our lawns, the idea we are working through with them is that this could be an even bigger initiative with several hundred journalists.

“But they would be employed by us, and that is the difference, and commissioned to provide council and other quango reporting to the BBC.”

HTFP has asked the NMA for a comment.

30 comments

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  • March 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm
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    More baffling wheezes from the font of all baffling wheezes.

    Could Mr Highfield now resolve the issue of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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  • March 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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    Why should BBC licence payers help to prop up Johnston Press, which has shown no previous commitment to council or court reporting in the areas it supposedly serves?

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  • March 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm
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    Let’s get this straight.
    Licence payers will have their money spend on providing staff for badly run newspapers who deliberately shed their best staff to chase a digital cash cow with blocked udders.
    The public will love it.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 3:36 pm
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    It’s been a while since we had idea from the funny farm.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm
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    The BBC should just go with its present plan of providing links to existing council and court coverage by local newspapers, then when people click on them they’ll realise there’s nothing there.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm
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    It would be churlish of me not to observe that JP shares have in less than a week slumped back to the low 40s.

    So, buying a national newspaper just as your bigger rival launches one, announcing depressing annual numbers and receiving a dismal rating from S&P has not impressed the market much?

    I suppose demanding that the BBC (or rather anyone under 75 on pain of a criminal conviction) pay your staff to do the jobs your own people used to do but now you can’t be a***d to pay them to do, is as good a wheeze as any to keep the wheels on AH’s now amusement park-sized gravy train for another month.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm
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    Errm , can sort of see it. Ashley’s going to hire you for peanuts and then flog the results of your hard work to the Beeb for a profit. Think I’d rather take my chances as a freelancer.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm
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    My suggestion is that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the CBI and the Kremlin fund JP for court reporting; coverage of parish, town and county council meetings; and the bog-standard templated ‘disgruntled residents in parking rumpus’ stories. This will clear around 90% of hard-pressed reporters’ current work and free them up to focus on online wacky cat/gerbil videos and showbiz Z-listers’ shenanigans. This way vast piles of cash will flood the industry again and we will all be saved. Analysis and synthesis rarely comes more potently than this.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm
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    There must be exceptions somewhere but a lot of JP court coverage seems to come from press releases from cops.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm
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    regional newspapers should actually concentrate on getting better prices from the nationals through their syndication teams for helping to provide the content for the mail, sun etc and also beating the local agencies that sell them ahead of the papers themselves

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  • March 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm
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    My comments about Johnston Press (relating to the court coverage ussue) on another thread were deemed unsuitable for a trade website. I’ll try again.

    Johnston Press has no commitment to the communities its papers serve. The one I used to edit is now regarded as an object of ridicule by local people. Not only does the paper rarely cover magistrates court but the coverage of local council matters is almost non-existent. Regularly I see the paper beaten to good political stories by a two-bit local web site run by keen amateurs.

    So, having ripped the heart out of their papers and seriously damaged local democracy, JP now wants BBC licence payers to hand over money in the hope that said papers will resurrect court and council coverage.

    Is it April 1 already.

    * Fingers crossed this comment makes it past the censors.

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  • March 29, 2016 at 11:37 pm
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    JP just hate paying their journalists. Still, Ashley has to prise his £1.6m package from somebody. Did he once cost the Beeb £100m after commissioning the ill-fated wireless recording system? They’re unlikely to heed him again!!

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  • March 30, 2016 at 8:10 am
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    Onlooker. You’re right. Expect much worse to come.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 8:52 am
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    Why does JP not go the whole hog and simply register itself as a charity. I am sure the contributions would come flooding in. The great British public love a good sob story.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 9:01 am
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    I know ( and hundreds more do I am sure) of a very good council-related story in my neck of the woods that my so-called JP local (now produced 20 miles away and no local staff) knows nothing about. A few years ago they had people on the ground sniffing out stories. That is Ashers newsroom of the future for you. An ivory tower.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 9:18 am
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    Hilarious! They have a failed business model and now want the BBC to prop up their profits. Why, as a licence fee payer, would I want to see my money spent on some dire local newspaper? If I wanted what they had I would buy it and they wouldn’t be in the trouble they are in.

    I have advocated before a system where the BBC licence fee could be used to set up new semi-autonomous websites. Paying for freelancers around the country and running the tech side of any websites.

    The websites themselves could be partly financed by advertising, if not wholly so. The sites could be checked for regular, accurate, relevant copy (ie local news not cat videos) and funding/support withdrawn if it fails to meet agreed standards.

    But don’t, whatever you do, give these people money.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 9:19 am
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    “At the same time, the group’s digital operations have been expanding slower than we previously anticipated because of difficulty in deriving revenue from the growing digital audience.” This pithy sentence from the Standard & Poor’s recent report on JP’s woes sums up the iceberg-bound boat we’re all on. In this Easter week I ask where is the saviour who will unlock this frozen cash? The person who cracks it will deservedly be worth millions (maybe more) and the rest of us may have jobs for a proper career span.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 9:37 am
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    I pay my licence so I can watch and listen to the BBC.

    I pay the cover price of a newspaper so I can read it and expect part of that price to finance the reporting staff.

    Thankfully my local paper is not owned by JP and does cover courts and council meetings.I believe it even makes a profit.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 9:52 am
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    poetic licence, I like the digital cow with blocked udders analogy. Nicely put.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 11:08 am
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    that’s kind Archantlifer. I wish it wasn’t true, though, for the sake of the poor souls trying to make a living in a very confused media age. The decline in standards of my local JP weekly has been marked since it lost its local office and staff in the quest for digital profits. True, you can still get a paper out from a “regional” news hub , but much of it is not local news.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 11:10 am
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    JP cure for blocked udders (poetic licence). Squeeze harder.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 11:41 am
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    Presumably a proportion of the profits made by these newspapers will go back to the BBC ?

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  • March 30, 2016 at 11:42 am
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    JP certainly has wide experience of shedding journalists…..but employing more??
    Who in their right mind, apart from young wannabe journos desperately seeking their first job, is going to submit to JP’s warped systems?
    Any port in a storm, I suppose — but don’t forget the lifeboat!

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  • March 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm
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    Hands up anyone who thinks the big newspaper groups will just hand over the Beeb’s money to shareholders instead of paying for extra reporters.
    What’s wrong with giving PA a bit more money and getting them to provide the the stories?

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  • March 30, 2016 at 5:44 pm
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    You just have to look at the truly weak JP coverage on the Northants ET about the impending loss of 600 steel jobs at Corby, to see what a state they are in. When there was a district office in town there would be staff down at the steelworks gates doing voxpops, and wide reaction from across the local community. Instead we have a story featuring a cut and pasted chunk from the local MPs twitter feed, and a long press release from a national (not local) union leader regurgitated.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm
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    Memo to the BBC. Don’t let Ashley and his team of idiots anywhere near the Corporation. They’ll bring it to its knees. They destroy everything they touch. Keep an eye on the i. Its days are numbered too.

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