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BBC could "crush" local newspapers – Cameron

The Tory leader has warned the BBC could crush the local press while a North Wales MP has reiterated calls for public money to support newspapers.

David Cameron said the Corporation’s plans to spend £68m launching 65 local video news services online endangered entrepreneurship and capital that other organisations had invested.

The Conservative leader was talking to journalists and publishers from the local press at the annual Newspaper Conference lunch.

He said: “They have got to bear in mind that when they enter new markets, they are often in danger of crushing with the great big foot of the BBC enterprise, entrepreneurship and risk and capital that other organisations have put into those areas.

“Things like what they have been doing in education…..their plans for video on demand, and some of what they’ve been doing in competition with local newspapers, those are the things where they should be restrained.”

The BBC Trust is currently reviewing BBC Management’s plans to launch the on-demand internet local video news service which Mr Cameron said “made no sense”.

He added: “I know the BBC Trust is an improvement on the old form of government but to me independent regulation has got to be independent.”

The Tory chief vowed to continue working with the local press, telling guests the party would “put in as much work as we can into a relationship with you because we think you’re a valuable institution”.

In a separate development, Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones has called for local newspapers to receive a slice of public funding to help them survive the financial crisis gripping the industry.

A similar call was made by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger at last week’s Society of Editor’s conference.

Mr Jones proposes that the £68m sum would be better given to local papers and says he has written to OFCOM and the Office of Fair Trading today to ask for advice on the matter.

He said: “Local papers are the lifeblood of a local community. Many of them are run by editors and staff who are immersed in the local community and have been so for many years.

“It seems bizarre to us that public money should only be used to fund the BBC’s projects in regional communities. Many of our constituents would be happier knowing a small part of their licence fee or taxpayer’s money was being spent on the local paper they have known and loved for years.

“Local newspapers face falling advertising costs and are struggling to survive. They certainly do not need competition from a publicly-funded body which would only mirror the services currently provided by our local papers.

“With local papers struggling to get by it is right that they receive our full support and I will back them tirelessly in this matter.”


George Kelly (20/11/2008 11:35:50)
Oh come on! Public funding for an industry that has senior management bleeding it dry to maintain shareholder profits? I don’t think so! While I agree that editors of local newspapers have their hearts within the community, they full well know that any input of money would be used to shore up these hugely over-inflated margins.

Monkey (20/11/2008 16:21:54)
Of course the BBC’s going to move into the void regional newspapers are leaving through their latest round of draconian, shortsighted cutbacks. Whose fault is that?
The only way to stave off the Beeb is to invest. If you refuse to do that, you make your bed and you lie in it.
Politicians seem to have a rose-tinted view of local papers. Do they really think newspaper execs care about the “lifeblood of the community” when they can line their silk pockets by bleading local papers dry?
The BBC is not run for profit. The only thing newspaper bosses care about is profit. No prizes for guessing which is more sustainable.