An editorial boss has urged the BBC to “put its house in order” after the corporation issued a “humiliating” apology to a regional daily.
It followed claims broadcast during a segment on Radio 4’s Today Programme that the Reach plc-owned daily’s website is “rammed with clickbait”.
Gary, pictured, has claimed the apology is evidence of the BBC being “consumed with trying to unfairly steal audience share from hard-pressed local publishers” and has launched a fresh attack on plans, widely criticised by regional press industry figures, for the corporation to further expand its local news provision.
The BBC announced proposals in October to create 131 new jobs as a result of planned investment in local news services across the country while at the same time axeing 179 jobs in local radio and TV services.
He wrote: “The BBC desperately needs more triumphs like Happy Valley – but there is little chance of that while it is obsessed by purging itself of popular older radio presenters, spreading itself too thinly and waging an anti-competitive battle with quality local newspapers and their websites.
“The BBC should be investing its £3.8bn a year licence fee bonanza in more Happy Valleys, more Line of Duty, more The Traitors, more Strictly, more quality wildlife programmes, and more serious cultural content, a role that has been usurped by the free to air Sky Arts channel.
“By strengthening its core offering in this way it can take the global streaming giants head on. But it is so consumed with trying to unfairly steal audience share from hard-pressed local publishers with its ad-free local news websites paid for by taxpayers that last week it was forced into a humiliating apology to the Manchester Evening News.
“The BBC needs to scrap these plans. Instead it should put its own house in order. It needs to commission a whole lot more quality TV – and position itself for a world in which it is no longer dependent on the licence fee but can go head-to-head with Netflix around the globe.”
The proposed expansion will see the BBC create 11 investigative reporting teams across the country while, in a separate move, increasing its daily online news provision for 43 local areas and launching dedicated websites covering Bradford, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Peterborough.
The scheme is part of a series of changes which will see 139 other roles being made redundant due to the introduction of increased programme-sharing across its network of 39 local radio stations in England, along with 40 jobs lost in regional TV services.
In a ruling that dismayed regional publishers, Ofcom gave the green light to the expansion saying it will have a likely impact of less than 1pc on the total revenues of online local news providers, and that while the expanded BBC service may attract a larger audience, this would not be at the expense of commercial online local news content.
HTFP has approached the BBC for a response to Gary’s column.