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Updated: PA Pitches For Public Funding, Promises Free Court Reporting

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The Press Association is making a play for funds that could replace ITV’s public service media role, saying it and will give away free wire reports from local council meetings and magistrate hearings in a new online project.

PA says it is deploying six reporters to trial the scheme for Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) in Liverpool in the next few weeks. But, ultimately, it wants funds the Digital Britain report said may be on offer to regional multimedia consortia if ITV (LSE: ITV) regions disappear in 2012.

PA MD Tony Watson – speaking to the culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday – said he “very much” wants to be a part of those consortia, both as a provider of written reporting and by making PA’s video wire the standard method of video distribution and sharing for newspapers and broadcasters Under PA’s new scheme, anyone — from professional newspapers to hyperlocal amateur bloggers — will be able to take stories and use them in full for free, though it’s unclear quite how many stories will be available.

Potential backers for this idea are not necessarily media companies, Watson said: “A couple of conversations are going on at the moment, I’d hate to put them under pressure and jeopardise the opportunity. We are well-placed to help the newspapers play a meaningful part in that proposition because we have the technical links to all the newsrooms

A torrid time for newspapers is a torrid time for PA, which relies almost entirely on their revenue which receives 40 percent of its revenue from newspapers. The company invested large amounts in multimedia production only to find that national and regional newspapers were cutting back spending on things like online video. PA made a loss of £8 million last year despite a seven percent revenue rise.

I wouldn’t say this is a desperate ploy from PA, but it is a hopeful one. Perhaps even more then their struggling newspaper clients, PA doesn’t know exactly what its business model will be in five years’ time — it hopes filling in the gap left by ITV’s retreat from local news provision will be a part of it, but PA is far from the the only media company with an eye on that role.