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Details emerge on where new public service reporters will be based

sarah-hartleyDetails have begun to emerge about how reporters working on a local democracy scheme run between the regional press and the BBC will be split geographically.

The partnership between the corporation and the News Media Association, which will see 150 reporters employed by local press groups but paid for by the BBC licence fee, could begin in May.

Sarah Hartley, who works for Google’s digital news initiative team, says eight reporter positions have provisionally been allocated to cover councils in the North-East of England.

Sarah, pictured above left, revealed the figure after attending a BBC ‘hyperlocal forum’ at which it emerged that the corporation has divided the country into patches which reflect its own local news operations for the project.

Within those, the BBC has then “bundled” the local authorities which need covering and assigned a suggested number of reporters to each of the contracts to be awarded.

For example, two of the North-East contingent will be allocated to cover the BBC’s Teesside region – which includes authorities in Durham, Darlington and North Yorkshire.

According to Sarah, a former Northern Echo news editor and head of online editorial for MEN Media, cash to the tune of £34,000 per contract will be made available to fund the eight.

But she says the way the geographical split has been worked out could deter independent publishers from bidding for the contracts.

On her ‘Dim Sum Digital’ blog, Sarah wrote: “I can’t think of a single independent news service which strives to cover such a large patch, so the only potential bidder would seem to be the established local Newsquest-owned paper (the Northern Echo). New entrants are considered ineligible – only news providers already up and running will be considered.

“Given that similar situations will apply to many (possibly all) places as most independent publishers generally cover a small geography in a deep way), it’s hard to see where the opportunity to bid for these contracts will occur.

“There was some disappointment about that situation expressed in the room today, alongside an understanding for the BBC’s position in attempting to find a way forward in managing this scheme in a reasonable, cost-effective way.

“One possibility is that, in areas where there is a hyperlocal already operating, there could be some sort of joint bid with the local newspaper to cover these large patches.”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We are still consulting with the wider industry about the final proposals and how this service will work across the whole country whilst being cost effective. We’ll announce final plans in the spring.”


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  • January 11, 2017 at 7:48 am

    It is a shame that the process for bidding would seem to preclude the smaller independent publishers from benefitting and being involved as they are the only publishers working at a hyper local level with and within the communities they genuinely serve,They have established and grown their publishing businesses,reader numbers and advertising revenues in the very same climate that has seen the collapse of the bigger groups revenue bases so the offer of support/assistance/funding to the already established bigger groups who have shown an inability or disinterest in covering the level of news and community reportage provided by the smaller independents whilst they chased the elusive on line pound would seem to be off the mark and a waste of much needed funding.

    The suggestion that the bigger player might join forces with the smaller publisher is not practical or realsitic,the big groups see all local competitiors as threats and the independents would not benefit from the larger publisher imposing their ineffective methods, levels of red tape and management control impacting on their effective ways of working. Likewisie, the offer of support to a failing established dinosaur business(s) looks to be a poor way of using this funding and the provision of additional resources would be throwing good money after bad,better surely to give it to the smaller independents who could use the money/staffing numbers to develop further their local news service in the areas where its most needed and in the most effective and targetted way.

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  • January 11, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I can’t help but feel a sense of shame that it has come to this.

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  • January 11, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Sorry, but this is not what I – nor I guess millions of others – pay their licence fee for. We are basically now funding local media organisations who had (or indeed have) no idea how to run their businesses in the first place.

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  • January 11, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I genuinely believe this project is doomed to fail – for several reasons.
    For instance how will they ensure newspapers don’t simply grab the BBC money, quietly get rid of a reporter or two and end up with exactly the same number of journalists?
    Who will decide which council meeting they cover – BBC or the paper?
    The big newspaper groups will get the cash – not the small independent papers who really deserve the help.
    The new recruits will soon realise the BBC pays a whole lot more in the way of salaries…and rapidly work out a way to join the Beeb.
    Why should my TV licence money be used to line the pockets of Newsquest, TM etc?

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  • January 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Sounds like an exciting opportunity for loads more newspaper reporters to be made redundant.

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  • January 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    cut it anyway you wish but the uk regional press groups who have demonstated complete incompetence,arrogance and complacency in the face of new media threats should not be propped up by us the british tax payer.
    By all means support the fledgling independent publishers who are managing costs and running good small businesses with sound business plans,giving a genuine and back to basics community publishing service, but as has been mentioned in the various comments above,why should we fund publishing groups who cannot manage their own busiensses by throwing good money after bad

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