Regional press industry bosses today welcomed the BBC Trust review group’s findings to reject plans for local online video news services which would have competed with local newspaper sites.
Here’s what some of the leading industry figures had to say.
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors
“Quite clearly the BBC has recognised the potential damaging effect, particularly in regional newspapers, which are facing the double challenge of huge structural change as well as the general economic malaise.
“I have always believed that there is scope for the BBC to work with regional newspapers but it has to be a true partnership of equals and that is extremely difficult to achieve when one partner is a very powerful and well-developed big brother.
“It’s always good to know that organisations such as the BBC Trust and Ofcom will listen to a case which has been so powerfully put and sensibly explained by the regional media.”
David Newell, director of the Newspaper Society
“We are pleased that the BBC Trust and Ofcom have responded to the industry’s concerns and rejected the BBC Local Video plans for the time being.
“This is a proposal which the BBC should never have made and would have severely reduced consumers’ media choice and the rich tapestry of local news and information provision in the UK,” said
“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the future roles of the BBC, BBC Trust and Ofcom and the current challenges facing regional and local media.
“We must be on our guard to ensure that the BBC is not allowed to expand its local services by alternative means.”
“Northcliffe welcomes the BBC Trust’s considered judgment, rejecting the local video proposals put forward by the BBC. This is a victory for common sense.
“We felt strongly that the BBC proposals would duplicate services which are already provided by local media organisations and thus would have an adverse impact on nascent digital audiences. Hence the reason we have expressed our concerns from the outset about these proposals.”
“Northcliffe provides high quality video, audio and text based services for readers and advertisers. We also encourage members of the public to post relevant local videos on our sites. We will continue with our investment plans in this area.”
Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror
“We are delighted that the BBC Trust and Ofcom have recognised and confirmed our view that BBC Local plans would have posed a severe threat to the commercial regional and local media marketplace.
“We can now continue to invest without the fear that a publicly funded giant would be duplicating already existing services.
“However, we will still be seeking assurances from the BBC Trust that the BBC will not be overstepping the boundaries of their current Service Licence by launching new hyperlocal map-based news services.”
John Meehan, regional editorial director of Northcliffe Media North East
“We are pleased that the BBC Trust have recognised these proposals as an unnecessary use of licence fee funds.
“The BBC should not be using its privileged position and public funding to duplicate services already provided by commercial operators, to distort commercial markets and to undermine the plurality of local news provision.
“BBC management must now recognise that they should stick to the BBC’s public service remit by concentrating on providing services that commercial media cannot or do not offer.
“Northcliffe will continue to invest in and develop excellent multimedia news and information services for local people and communities. We will also remain wary of the BBC seeking to revive its ambitions to spend public money competing aggressively with local and regional news providers.”
David Fordham, chief executive of Iliffe News and Media
“This is totally the correct conclusion and we applaud the BBC Trust review group for having the courage to stand up against the expansionist plans of its executive,” he said.
“There was nothing new or distinctive in the BBC plan that is not already being delivered in local markets by regional newspapers,” he said.
“There is no market failure that would have justified state intervention of this sort and it needed to be stopped. We hope the BBC executive now takes heed by concentrating its efforts on its core delivery and stepping back from its expansionist agenda.
“The plurality of UK media is part of the bedrock of our democratic society and one of the elements that sets us apart from nations where information is dominated by state-owned media outlets. It needs to be protected and we are glad that the BBC Trust appears to recognise this.”
Adrian Jeakings, chief executive of Archant
“We are pleased with the conclusions of Ofcom and the decision of the BBC Trust to reject the plans and hope in due course this will be ratified after the public consultation period.
“It seemed clear to us that the BBC plans would have had a negative impact on regional newspapers and Ofcom have now confirmed that. Today’s decision will help to ensure that further development and innovation of our portfolio of local websites will not now be overwhelmed by a flood of publicly funded competition.”
Peter Franzen, editor of the Eastern Daily Press
“It is gratifying to know that the BBC Trust and Ofcom have listened to the powerful lobby expressing the concerns of the regional media. The BBC plans would duplicate what is on offer on local newspaper websites and amounts to unfair competition.
“The BBC should concentrate it efforts on improving the quality of existing services, such as delivering quality regional television.”
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists
“This decision is a missed opportunity to improve local news for communities around the country.
“Local papers are closing and job cuts mean thousands of journalists don’t have the time to do their jobs properly anymore. ITV is withdrawing from its regional and local news commitments. Against a significant decline in local journalism, here was an opportunity to take a small step in the opposite direction by actually enhancing local news provision.
“The BBC made commitments to invest in local and regional news services. We expect the corporation to stick to its promises and ensure that other news services now benefit from this investment.
“Newspaper employers have spent years taking huge profits out of local media whilst cutting jobs. Now they have helped stop new jobs being created because they said such competition would stifle their investment. Now is the time for them to put their money where their mouth is and invest more in local journalism – in jobs, in training and in resources for hard-pressed newsrooms.”
Observer (21/11/2008 12:09:07)
Now the BBC won’t be investing in local news, maybe the so-called ‘big players’ in local media will. Go on Sly – prove you know what you’re doing.
Interested (21/11/2008 12:13:21)
Sly says: “We can now continue to invest without the fear that a publicly funded giant would be duplicating already existing services”.
Invest? Is that what cutting jobs and closing titles means?
Already existing services? I repeat my comment above.
The woman is in cloud cuckoo land. Shame on you.
Mr_Osato (21/11/2008 14:39:52)
Surely the real ‘industry reaction’ to this news is your lead story today – more jobs going. They realise they can cut, cut, cut because they’ve conned their only real opposition into bottling it. Let’s hope union members fight these plans all the way.