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BBC seeks to expand democracy scheme to cover courts and NHS

tony-hallThe BBC says it wants to expand the local democracy reporting scheme to include courts and NHS Trusts.

The BBC has announced its intention to expand the scheme, run with the regional press, which currently employs 150 journalists across the country to cover local authorities.

The plan would see more council reporters recruited to offer greater coverage of ‘blue light’ public services such as NHS Trusts – with the service also being extended to cover on magistrates’ and sheriffs’ courts.

Under the new plans a standalone, not-for-profit body will run the scheme, allowing it to seek private sector funding from outside the BBC.

The BBC’s director general Tony Hall, pictured, said: “It’s never been more important to invest in local journalism. The 150 reporters we’ve funded through the Local News Partnerships have made a real difference to local communities, giving people the information they need to hold those in power to account.

“Now it’s time to go further. I want businesses and other institutions to join with us so we can get even more reporters into local communities – and give people the local journalism they deserve.”

The BBC says the expansion will only go ahead after consultation with the news industry and when sufficient external funding has been found, with recruitment of a new cohort of local democracy reporters being its first priority.

Last month HTFP reported media outlets aimed at ethnic minorities can now apply to be partners in a BBC scheme, as well as those covering geographic areas.

Ken MacQuarrie, director for BBC Nations and Regions, said: “The Local News Partnership has been a major success. It’s been warmly welcomed by the news industry and even people within local government who have embraced the additional media scrutiny and profile it has led to.

“We have ambitious plans to do even more to support local news in the UK because we believe in local journalism. The extent of the expansion would depend on us securing external funding partners but we think there is an appreciation of the importance of local journalism and the need to support it.”

NMA chief executive David Newell added: “The Local News Partnership has produced clear benefits for local journalism, and it is right for us to now look at how it could be expanded.

“The NMA and local news sector look forward to working closely with the BBC as these plans for expansion progress, building on the successes of the partnership to date.”

 

10 comments

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  • November 4, 2019 at 9:54 am
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    Many courts currently provide the bread and butter of local news agencies and freelancers. Without this many simply would not survive.

    So instead we are seeing public money – for that is what the licence fee is – going to prop up failing big businesses.

    Personally, i’d rather have a free TV licence when I hit 75.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 11:36 am
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    So independent newspapers which DO still cover court are going to lose out (as has already happened with council reporting). Reach et al benefit (and can further trim their editorial budgets) while independents lose their USP as the content will immediately be published online far and wide.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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    coverage of the NHS in local papers has deteriorated rapidly. Just waiting for the next press release from the Trust folks.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 12:10 pm
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    Does anyone have any statistics on what percentage of copy created by the current democracy reporters are used by the BBC?

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  • November 4, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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    And yet again my money, in the form of the licence fee, will fund reporters for the big 3 (soon to be 2) regional publishers while I, as a hyperlocal, get naff all despite being the news website of choice for thousands of readers in my area.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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    “….the expansion will only go ahead after consultation with the news industry” and we know which self serving groups they’ll consult with don’t we.

    Yet again the country’s real news providers, the independent hyper local publishers ,lose out in favour of the ones who’ve ransacked editorial and commercial teams to offset losses due to incompetence and poorly thought out reactive strategies.
    Those who’ve shown themselves incapable of running modern news media businesses , who’ve laid off dozens of staff and who’ve given up on the communities they once served choosing instead to hunt the elusive digital dollar are rewarded.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 1:23 pm
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    Kathy Bailes
    If it’s any small consolation the many new independent news providers and publishers such as yourself are the ones who have the publics credibility and respect and are the ones picking up the audiences the big few wish they still had.
    These are the ones who would benefit from support in resources or financially as they’re the ones providing the type of grass roots news which is important to local communities, it’s just beyond belief the BBC and those responsible for handling the LDR are too blinkered to see it.

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  • November 4, 2019 at 4:11 pm
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    I don’t see why a group like JPI should be subsidised in this way. They already get resources to cover council meetings and council committee meetings, some of which take place in the evenings.
    As some JPI titles have a print time of 6pm the previous evening (scandalous!) there is no guarantee that they can get reports of meetings in the following day’s paper. So while it may not be fake news, it is late news, which rather goes against what newspapers should be.
    Worthy scheme, but more checks and balances needed to make sure resources are going to the right organisations.

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  • November 5, 2019 at 9:27 am
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    In my experience, which is admittedly limited, a Local Democracy Reporter is a former employee of a big newspaper group who now sits in the same chair they occupied before the LDR scheme was introduced and does nothing more than churn out the same council press releases, but whose salary is now paid not by a bloated, inefficient, top-heavy, yet still hugely profitable corporate behemoth, but by the taxpayer through their television licence fee. Some of their copy – very little – occasionally crops up on the local BBC website. Other than that, it’s business as usual. I’m sure that doesn’t hold true everywhere, but from where I’m sitting the LDR scheme is a PR racket designed to make the BBC appear to be paying something back for all those decades of freeloading off the work of struggling regional hacks, and to make the big news publishers look as if they give a flying monkey’s about the communities they pretend to serve.

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  • November 5, 2019 at 9:57 am
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    As a hyperlocal publisher myself, I have mixed opinions. The extra resource is welcomed but the fact that companies who neglected this area for the sake of profit also benefit is a bit of a kick in the teeth.

    On a positive note, Private Eye claims Facebook are urging their community reporters to go Facebook first with local news and make publishing stories with their placement online publications less of a priority.

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