The Newspaper Society has stepped in to give the BBC yet another kicking (but a rather late one), seeking to use last month’s critical BBC Trust report to suggest Auntie should be blocked from launching 60 video-centric hyperlocal sites. Nothing new there – fearful of competition on their local papers’ turf, most of the publishers the society represents have already called the BBC names like “300lb gorilla“.
Still, for the record, society director David Newell says: “BBC News online is using sizeable sums of licence fee money to replicate services already provided by local media companies and using its cross-promotional power to attract audiences away from local media sites.
“The trust has pointed out in its report that the BBC local sites are among those not perceived to be original or different and has stressed that more needs to be done to ensure that all parts of bbc.co.uk are distinctive. Yet these are the areas of the website into which the BBC wants to divert more public money, encroaching further into the local news market.”
The BBC wants to add broadband video output to its existing Where I Live sites next year – not so much hyperlocal as regional, in truth. The society will be responding to the trust’s upcoming public value test on the proposals, which could be delayed also by the change in BBC future media and technology director as well as a freeze on investment and a managerial restructure ordered by the trust’s recent review.
BBC News multimedia journalism head Pete Clifton last week told me the site would recommit to link out to local newspaper stories online. The review acknowledged Auntie had made a “positive response” to news publishers’ concerns to date.