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Newspaper Society calls for cap on BBC story count

The Newspaper Society is calling for a strict cap on the number of stories the BBC can carry on its local websites as part of a bid to stop the corporation competing with the local press.

Earlier this year the BBC issued a firm pledge not to introduce news services at a more local level than currently exist.

But the NS says the corporation’s so-called ‘contract for local’ does not go nearly far enough.

In a strongly-worded response to the strategy document, it calls for a maximum story count on the BBC local radio websites on any given day.

It says: “The BBC Trust and BBC Executive need to set new boundaries which will immediately and truly reduce and restrict the BBC’s local role and local ambitions across all media platforms.

“The issue is whether the BBC Trust and BBC Executive wish to exercise self-control or whether the strategy review may become the latest in a long line of BBC acknowledgment of criticism of its ever-growing activities, without any effective action to curb and reduce them.”

The NS claimed the strategy review had made clear the BBC’s intention to beef-up its coverage of business and local government – “both staples of local newspaper coverage.”

And it claimed the BBC had “no intention” of reducing its current local and regional services, nor of drawing back from the expansion of local and regional services already proposed,

Among the measures it calls for the introduction and enforcement of a specific maximum number of regional and local stories and other material per day on each BBC local radio website during any 24-hour period.

It also says the BBC should be obliged to publish links to local newspaper stories where these are used as sources for its own reports.

In its review, published in March, the BBC pledged to allow local newspapers “room to develop their digital services” by promising not to introduce more localised online offerings.

It recommended a 25pc cutback in funding for the BBC’s web operation, including the closure of around half the sections by 2012 and fewer bespoke programme websites


David Miller (01/06/2010 09:33:04)
I was one of the founders of the BBC’s local websites although I no longer work for the corporation. The idea that local newspapers can tell the BBC how many stories to publish is disgraceful. They also keep on pushing the idea that the local websites take all their news unchecked from local papers. This wasn’t true in my day and I doubt if it is now. I hope the BBC tells the NS to get lost. But somehow I doubt it will.

SebastianFaults (01/06/2010 09:43:21)
However, it’s also true that the BBC does not employ enough reporters on the ground to gather its own news and has always leeched from local papers.
It used to pay a tip-off fee for stories and contact details, but this practice appears to declined over the years. It’s a conundrum.

Casual Observer (01/06/2010 10:01:10)
BBC Cambridgeshire is notorious for nicking stories from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph. It’s Peterborough Breakfast show is nothing but a rehash of the previous day’s ET, and the website is not much better.

Onlooker (01/06/2010 10:15:41)
I have just looked at the local BBC site (Hampshire and the Isle of Wight). There are seven news stories plus three sport, a couple of features, and links to other news sites (ie local newspapers). That’s hardly overkill. Me thinks the Newspaper Society doth protest too much. It would be better if NS members invested more money in their newspapers, rather than constant cuts.

James T (01/06/2010 10:34:10)
More hot air from the Newspaper Society. I’ve started to wonder what they actually do? If you read HTFP regularly it would appear the organisation spends much of its time complaining about the BBC and other public sector media orgs such as local council newspapers. Could anyone at HTFP, or anyone in general, answer this ponderer for me pls?

David Miller (01/06/2010 10:34:32)
It’s true that the BBC hasn’t put much effort of late into the local websites. When I ran the online news service in Leeds there were six of us. At the moment the site lists just four journalists to cover four areas. The answer would be for local radio and regional TV journalists to write stories directly for the websites. This for various reasons has not happened, mainly because senior local managers have never been interested in connecting with the new audience the internet can attract. I wonder what the NS thinks of The Guardian’s new local sites for Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh? These sites concentrate on local government and could provide lessons for the BBC on the way forward for its local sites.

stan szecowka (01/06/2010 13:09:30)
Not sure what planet David Miller is on … ask any BBC local radio reporter is they can honestly say they haven’t lifted the local news from the local newspaper!
It’s about time the UK regional press squashed the leeches.

The Stig (01/06/2010 14:09:40)
Stan, your comment made me laugh. The same is true of local newspaper reporters as well. I’ve had quite a few ripped off by our local rag from stories on Auntie in the past few weeks alone. But, what is the point in just fighting? Should we not just accept we are both here to stay and deal with it? Or is the NS so lacking in confidence that the best it can do is hit out at the BBC rather than praise its own flock?

Mark Forster (02/06/2010 13:42:46)
Typical of the way newspapers think. They’ve cut back and lost sales and now want to be protected against competition. Of course, the BBC is no better. What a bloody awful service the media offers communities