A leading regional publisher has renewed calls for a strict cap on the number of local stories the BBC can put on its websites.
John Fry, chief executive of Johnston Press, said in a national newspaper interview that the limit should be set at three stories per day.
He says that unless the BBC’s local ambitions are controlled, regional newspaper groups will never be able to charge for digital content.
The demand for a cap was a key plank of the Newspaper Society’s response to the BBC’s strategy review earlier this year.
Mr Fry told the Daily Telegraph he had written to the BBC Trust calling for it to limit the number of local stories it can publish on the internet in a geographical area.
“We’ve not got a response yet, as it is part of a wider review. The danger is that it could be pushed into the long grass,” he told the newspaper.
He said: “As long as we have competition from the BBC, with the publicly-funded nature of this service and its known ambitions to expand in local markets, it will be impossible for us to have a viable charging mechanism.”
However Mr Fry appeared again to rule out erecting paywalls on JP’s newspaper websites following the abortive experiment experiment earlier this year.
Instead he again suggested that charging for iPhone and iPad apps were the way forward, echoing comments made in an earlier interview with the Daily Mail.
“We’ve had 15 years of free. We’ve educated the audience that news sites on the internet are free. And so, with technological change, particularly in the mobile arena, I think that gives a different platform for consumers.
“It is partly a cultural thing. So, if everybody’s paying for it, it’s easier to work within that context. If everyone says it’s free, then it’s difficult.”
As part of its strategy review, the BBC issued what it claimed was a firm pledge not to introduce news services at a more local level than currently exist.
But the NS has already argued that the corporation’s so-called ‘contract for local’ does not go nearly far enough.