The National Union of Journalists has labelled as “complete cobblers” claims by the regional press that the BBC has an adverse effect on local newspapers.
Last month BBC Director-General Tony Hall unveiled plans for a pool of 100 public service journalists who would provide coverage of councils and courts for both the corporation and commercial news outlets.
The project was given the “thumbs down” by the regional press, which accused the corporation of “back door expansionism”.
Now NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, left, has also condemned the plan, claiming regional publishers had “a vested interest in trying to grab a section of licence fee payers’ money.”
Appearing before the House of Lords Communications Commitee, which is examining the BBC’s charter renewal, Michalle said she saw the proposal as step towards “privatisation”.
She added if the plans went ahead, she believed the local press would bid to win the BBC’s contracts for the 100 local reporters and that would “undermine the BBC’s ability as a public service broadcaster to do what it does right.”
Michelle also insisted the BBC did not have a negative effect on local newspapers when asked whether the corporation had undermined the regional press.
She told the committee: “It’s complete cobblers. It’s perpetuated by those leading the local and regional newspaper industry who have a vested interest in trying to grab a section of licence fee payers’ money that rightly belongs within our public service broadcaster.”
Michelle added: “The titans who run the local and regional newspaper groups in the UK…have encountered problems because of their own failures of business models.
“They have enjoyed lavish profits for many years and didn’t reinvest in journalism. In their rush to get onto a multiplatform approach, they haven’t got a business model that sustains that necessarily.
“They have sought to cut and cut and cut costs to maintain very high profit levels and not cared in the process that they haven’t got enough local reporters to cover council meetings, that they don’t have people who can cover health and education, vital things of importance to local communities.
“They only cared about their bottom line and now they see that the BBC is ripe for the picking…and they have gone hell for leather to try to secure some money from the BBC. Any attempts to try and grab money from the BBC – to stick into the pockets of the shareholders who run the local press – has to be avoided.”