A senior BBC executive has held out the prospect of content-sharing with local newspapers in an apparent olive-branch towards the industry.
James Harding, director of news and current affairs at the corporation, says the BBC is considering making its audio and video archive to local media as part of a new partnership approach.
But addressing a conference on local journalism organised by the BBC yesterday, James said the differences between the BBC and local newspapers have been overdone.
James told an invited audience at Salford’s MediaCity: “The BBC is open and willing to see how we can work together.”
He revealed he has set up a working party to look at extending co-operation between the corporation and local newspaper groups, which could, for instance, see BBC content streamed on local press websites.
Said James: “We share a belief in local journalism because we have a responsibility to the country we live in to ensure that local journalism gets back on its feet.
“We may compete like cats in a sack for stories, but, in the end, we have a common purpose. And, to my mind, the squabbles in recent years between the local press and the BBC are getting us all nowhwere. We have looked like a circular firing squad.”
Former Times editor James said the corporation was tackling what he called “the old bugbear” of BBC sites failing to credit local news organisations for stories.
“In my meetings with the regional press from Kent to Yorkshire to Gloucestershire, people say that there’s been a marked improvement on that front – and, yes, there’s still a way to go,” he said.
He also denied that the BBC was to blame for problems in the regional newspaper business.
“It’s Facebook, Google, Zoopla and Gumtree that have done for the classified and local advertising business in print with all of the consequences for local newspaper revenues and jobs,” he added.
David Holdsworth, controller of the BBC’s English regions, will lead the working group considering practical ways of papers and the broadcaster working together.
Trinity Mirror regional editorial director Neil Benson told the conference he was encouraged by the developing partnership with the BBC and urged it to “do simple things, like linking back,” to build the relationship.