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Industry body welcomes BBC move

The Newspaper Society has welcomed the Government’s announcement that the BBC has been asked to review and redefine the purposes and aims of its online services, following an independent review by Philip Graf.

This week saw the culmination of the review process by the former chief executive of Trinity Mirror, which began in January last year and included both public and industry consultation.

The BBC has now been given until October to make a full response to its findings.

During the review the Newspaper Society expressed concerns, through submissions from director David Newell, that the BBC’s online activities were threatening the profitability of regional newspapers.

It also said that public money was being used by the BBC to create “electronic newspapers” offering free advertising to customers who normally use newspapers.

Following the publication of the review by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the BBC’s director of new media & technology, Ashley Highfield, has said that the broadcaster is to explore its relationship with local newspapers with the aim of delivering a more collaborative listings service.

Santha Rasaiah, director of political, editorial and regulatory affairs at the Newspaper Society, said: “Some progress has been made.

“The Graf report stipulates – and the BBC submission to the Charter review accepts – that the BBC must avoid adverse market impact upon its commercial competitors, that its activities must in future be distinctive and actually justified by its public service remit.

“The BBC has already said that it must re-think its relationship with local newspapers and wants an immediate dialogue.

“The Society will continue its discussions with DCMS and the BBC, on both BBC online and the BBC Charter review, in the run up to the Government’s Green Paper.”

The BBC’s regional listings services on the Where I Live sites will begin an immediate dialogue with local newspapers to explore how the service might be offered in closer collaboration with them. Ideas for discussion include increasing the BBC’s audio visual output and linking direct to local newspaper sites.

In addition to this, the BBC is to close its central What’s On events listings.

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