In a keynote address this morning, Ms May revealed she had held talks with her local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, about the future of the industry and highlighted the BBC as major factor in its current difficulties.
The Home Secretary said that by becoming the dominant player in providing local news online, the corporation had prevented other operators from entering the market.
And she urged the BBC to “think carefully” about its local presence.
Ms May told the conference: “Local newspapers are having a particularly hard time. That has partly been the result of the BBC’s dominant position on the internet, and its ability to subsidise the provision of internet news using the licence fee.
“This makes it enormously difficult for local newspapers to compete. If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local reader to buy a paper?
“It is destroying local newspapers and it could eventually happen to national newspapers as well.
“This is as dangerous for local politics as it is for local journalism.
“I have had a number of conversations with both the Editor and Managing Director of my main local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, about the impact of the BBC locally and the importance of keeping an alternative local news source.
“As a local MP I value the ability to raise issues in my local newspaper but also its role in disseminating information about what I and local councillors are doing in the area.
“The “Tiser”, as it has long been known, is very influential locally and fiercely independent. People read it because it tells them what is happening in their locality and it would be a sad day if the might of the BBC affected its availability.
“This is a debate that won’t go away and I believe that the BBC has to think carefully about its presence locally and the impact that has on local democracy.”
“There is a need for the BBC to think about its own operation,” she said, adding: “We are not about to legislate.”
“The challenge is achieving a change in behaviour without banning particular outlets from operating in particular markets,” she said.
“The BBC online dominates the market in a way that prevents others from being able to come in.”
In her speech Ms May also said that people more willing to believe what they read in local newspapers than national newspapers.
And she said that whatever comes out of the press regulation debate “must meet the needs of local newspapers.”