The campaign to halt BBC plans to introduce video on demand on 65 of its local web portals has won the backing of more than 30 MPs.
St Albans Conservative MP Anne Main tabled an early day motion this week expressing concern over the potential impact on regional publishers of the £68m BBC proposals.
The motion has so far been signed by 31 MPs, including the former Shadow Home Secretary and Tory leadership contender David Davis.
And the issue has also been raised in the Commons this week during a debate on ITV’s plans to slash its regional news services.
Graham Stuart, Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness, told the House that the BBC’s “creeping monopoly” on news provision presented a threat to the diversity of media which “cannot be allowed to proceed.”
“Local newspapers are among the most vibrant and dynamic locally-based institutions in this country, ensuring that our democracy is delivered locally, as well as nationally,” he said.
“As we have seen with the impact on regional news, the BBC’s going in further and driving local newspapers out of business will have a major impact on the variety and diversity of our media.
“This creeping monopoly cannot be allowed to proceed, and we cannot leave this issue to the chairman of the BBC Trust, when it is the Secretary of State who should defend the right of the people to have the news provided locally.”
During the debate, Slough Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart asked Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport Andy Burnham if he was aware of the “real concern” about the plans.
Mr Burnham responded: “Local newspapers are a much-valued part of the media industry. My constituents depend on the local press in the Leigh area as a trusted source of news. I also appreciate the urgency of these issues.”
The ongoing controversy over the BBC plans loomed large in debates at the Society of Editors conference earlier this week.
A series of leading industry figures including Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey and Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke called for a “line in the sand” to be drawn to prevent further BBC expansion in online local news services.
In her Commons motion, Ms Main calls on MPs to recognise the “tremendous work of local newspaper reporters and broadcasters in providing reports on local events and community groups.”
She says the proposals by the BBC or any similarly unfairly state-funded competitor “may challenge the viability of commercial local news providers.”
Matt Anderson (04/12/2008 10:38:09)
I am not sure that this is a direct threat to “local” news providers.
ITV and regional press Trinity / Northcliffe are retreating out of this space.
I think that the provision of sub local regional news is a very important public service.