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BBC chief in pledge to help local journalism

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.

But in a speech to the Society of Editors conference today, James Harding reiterated his pledge to work together with the industry to aid local news provision.

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.”


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  • November 11, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Of course the Bloated Broadcasting Corpulence needs a thriving local press , they must be struggling for news leads these days, heaven forbid they actually found some news themselves.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Very funny. Regional TV lives off local papers and press releases from cops. Very little of its own investigative journalism. Some of its stories are so parochial they make you laugh.

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  • November 12, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    In fact local newspapers are living off local radio, the local press hasn’t got the staff to find decent stories anymore, unless of course it lands in their lap via twitter or Facebook, they don’t even have the staff to man the courts anymore……Another five years and thats it sadly.

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