Keith Harrison, who edits Wolverhampton daily the Express & Star, has made the call after the BBC announced the biggest expansion to the World Service since the 1940s, with plans to broadcast in 11 new languages as part of a £289m project over the next five years.
The BBC says it will provide “independent, impartial journalism” to its new international audience as part of the changes.
But Keith believes the £245m of taxpayers’ money a year spent on the World Service could be spent better closer to home.
In an editorial, he wrote: “As an editor who has lost plenty of good staff (and some not-so-good) to the BBC, I can assure my counterparts in African and Asian hot-seats that our state broadcaster pays handsomely – often well above the level possible in the private sector.”
Keith added: “To be clear, this is not some anti-BBC rant; like most people I value and cherish the corporation and have huge respect for many of the editorial staff and senior management based in the West Midlands.
“But at a time when the regional press is under serious threat, both from commercial pressures and punitive privacy legislation, it jars that we are able to spend £289m expanding a service, however laudable, overseas, while watching historic newspaper titles struggle at home.
“Rarely does a week pass by without some local newspaper ‘restructure’ being announced, causing more journalist redundancies.
“Furthermore, attempts to transform publishers into digital businesses are hampered by the Beeb’s huge – and, again, incredibly expensive – online presence.
“So as we set sail into a bold new year, how about a bit of tax-payer funded help for ‘independent and impartial’ journalism here in the UK?”
In October, Johnston Press editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford told the Society of Editors conference that a local democracy reporting service made up of 150 reporters employed by local press groups but paid for by the BBC licence fee could be up and running by May this year.