The director of news at the BBC today issued a pledge to help lead what he termed the “revival” of local journalism.
The corporation has faced claims of unfair competition with regional newspapers by using the licence fee to fund its network of free-to-access local websites.
He said it was in the BBC’s interests to see thriving local news businesses.
Earlier this year James set up a working group under BBC head of regions David Holdsworth to look at co-operation with local news providers.
At the time the then Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings suggested that the corporation should pay local newspapers to use their content.
In his speech, James said there were “differing views” within the working group on the issue of payment but confirmed the issue was being looked at.
He said: “We have agreed an audit in two regions (West Yorks and Bristol) of how many stories are sourced by the BBC from other providers and what kind of funding stream that might offer.”
James also revealed plans for a pilot project in the North East under which BBC content would be syndicated to local newspapers.
“We have also agreed to pilot possible BBC syndication of content to other local news providers in the North East by identifying the three most attractive pieces of content a week and assessing the appetite and implications of making this content available to all local news providers,” he said.
“We have also discussed the idea of a fund to ensure local courts are covered in a more comprehensive way and whether the licence fee might contribute to such a fund,” he added.
He said conversations about the idea were now taking place with the Press Association and the Ministry of Justice.
Added James: “The pessimism around local journalism is overdone. There’s a revival under way. It’s much needed. I’d like the BBC to be part of it.
“And I’d like to see what, in meaningful ways, we can do with local news organisations of all kinds to make it happen.
“It’s in our self interest to see a thriving local news business. I believe it’s in the local news business’ self interest to see a thriving BBC.
“If we want to, we can make that happen. We’re open to it.”