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Daily editor urges BBC to ‘stay away’ from covering local news online

Donald Martin 2A daily newspaper’s editor has urged the BBC to “stay away” from covering local news online.

Donald Martin, who edits Glasgow-based daily The Herald, has also called on the corporation to restrict the amount of “softer feature content” it publishers and questioned how paid-for titles can “compete” with its offering.

Donald, pictured, made the remarks during a Westminster Media Forum conference on the future of the BBC.

He described the BBC as a “tremendous asset” to Scotland, but went on to warn it had a “significant level of resource, which gives [it] a potentially damaging competitive advantage”.

Donald told the conference: “A key message would be that they need to keep the coverage online at national level and carefully manage and control the amount of regional content and stay away from local, where the very future of smaller community titles relies on providing that information.

“I would also restrict the softer feature content online that is not news.

“It’s part of the traditional package that newspapers and commercial publishers offer and it’s outside of the core news function of the BBC. It begs the question why would people pay for our content when it’s all free with the BBC.

“How can we compete? How can we survive?

“I’m not saying that what the BBC is doing is a bad thing, it’s great journalism. it just needs to watch its reach.”

Speaking at the conference, BBC director of policy Clare Sumner said: “Everyone has come to us for trusted news and information.

“Everyone has been able to rely on our services for support and advice, for help with homeschooling, for much-needed companionship and of course, I hope some distraction.”

HTFP has approached Donald for further comment.

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: “The BBC Scotland channel was established to provide more relevant content for audiences and clearly is doing just that with around 900 new hours of content a year helping it reach more viewers than any other digital channel in Scotland – with one in six of the population tuning in every week.

“It is a channel that is doing what it set out to do, fulfilling and in some cases exceeding expectations set out by Ofcom.”