The newspaper community has struck up a harmonious chorus of disapproval toward the £68 million BBC’s local video proposal. Writing on paidContent:UK, Guardian Media Group CEO Carolyn McCall, who has over 40 regional news sites, said: “There is a very well established local newspaper market. The BBC is in danger of killing this off as, unlike commercial operators, it can spend a lot of public money and there is absolutely no penalty if things don’t go well.”
Newspaper Society director David Newell, representing 1,300 titles, said: “The BBC is a highly-valued institution but it should not be given free rein to trample over commercial rivals and become the sole provider of local news in the UK.” And Guardian commentator Peter Preston suggests papers may go ironically bust from traffic lost to BBC stories that have been lifted from their very pages.
The picture may sound like end times for newspapers but, in truth, BBC News doesn’t want to become the “sole provider” of local content, and it has lifted from regional papers since its web launch in 1997. Nor, for sake of definition, are its ambitions either “hyper-” or “ultra-local” – unlike print publishers’ operations that are beginning to drill news down to post-code level, they are based on the existing 60 large regions that have already built a strong body of content under the BBC Where I Live programme that debuted in 2002.
So the reality is that the BBC has been producing local content for some time now – the difference is that, this time, it’s video, something Auntie is better at than text. The £23 million-a-year plan was put to the BBC Trust for review last week, with a ruling expected by February.