Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnson Press, said he had been in discussion with the broadcaster about a “commissioning” model under which it would pay to use the company’s news and pictures to use on its platforms.
He told the culture media and sport select committee that he was wary of the BBC’s suggestion of a network of 100 public service reporters, first announced by director general Lord Hall in September, saying he feared it would allow “BBC tentacles” to reach into ever-more local communities.
But direct commissioning would allow local papers to train up and hire more of their own reporters by selling content, he told MPs.
“We would be delighted to provide it, providing it did not just create another BBC outreach into ever smaller communities, because we do not think that’s helpful to our ecosystem, having another hundred or however many hundred it would be, BBC journalists effectively in our patch,” he said.
“But we do think the model where they commission us is a relatively straightforward model and would work.”
The BBC said in September that it would offer staff and content to local newspapers in plans for a major shake-up of the corporation.
It came as Culture Secretary John Whittingdale consults on possible replacements for the licence fee and considers whether the BBC should be “all things to all people” or have a more “precisely targeted” mission.
David Holdsworth, the BBC’s controller, English regions, told the committee that the idea was first proposed by a newspaper group.
He said that rather than hundreds of BBC reporters it would see licence fee cash made available in a bidding process.
He added: “I think as we have gathered there isn’t exactly industry consensus on that idea and that is why we … have been holding more conversations and negotiations about how we might best fashion our proposal for the future.”