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BBC accused of ‘forgetting’ regional press links over plan for 100 local reporters

Henry Faure WalkerThe BBC has been accused of “forgetting” its partnership with the regional press after announcing the creation of a new network of more than 100 local reporters.

The News Media Association has criticised the BBC over what it has called the “ill-advised new venture”, which is aimed at covering some of the UK’s “most under-served communities” online.

In response to the announcement, covered by HTFP yesterday, the NMA said the move would hurt independent local news providers “at a time when they are needed by the public more than ever”.

The trade body for the regional and national press has instead urged the corporation to channel any extra investment in local news through the existing Local News Partnership with the industry.

The LNP includes the BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporting Service, which currently employs around 150 journalists in regional newsrooms across the country – and is set to employ a further 15 following a forthcoming expansion.

NMA chairman Henry Faure Walker, pictured, said yesterday: “Despite progress in recent years to work in genuine partnership with the independent local news media sector, it appears today that the BBC has forgotten this and is yet again seeking to encroach on territory already catered for by commercial players.

“Through the Local News Partnership – which includes the widely-praised Local Democracy Reporting Service – the BBC and the local news media sector have successfully forged a partnership which has provided a shot in the arm for local public interest journalism. Crucially, this has been achieved without state competition distorting the marketplace.

“Any new investment in local journalism by the BBC should be channelled through the existing LNP and most certainly not through this ill-advised new venture which will hurt independent local news providers at a time when they are needed by the public more than ever.”

HTFP has approached the BBC for a comment on the NMA’s statement.

BBC director-general Tim Davie told staff yesterday: “We want to transform the quality and depth of our online reporting across the regions, with a new network of over 100 digital reporters to bring us closer to some of the UK’s most under-served communities.

“We will add up to six new peak-time BBC local radio opt-outs in communities such as Bradford, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.

“We’re going to move local news and content right to the heart of our online portfolio.

“Front and centre – not hidden away – across BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport and BBC Sounds.”

In response, a BBC spokesman said: “This proposal is for around 100 community digital video reporters to be based across the UK.

“These reporters would produce video content we can use online and on our regional TV news programmes.

“All the video content these reporters make will be shared with those involved in our Local News Partnership.

“We have renewed our commitment to the partnership, which means we will continue to spend up to £8m supporting local news journalism.”