The Quickie

A bite-sized look at this week's news…

Will BBC websites spell the end for local newspapers?

Posted by willd2 on November 6, 2008

 

Will local papers soon be a thing of the past?

Will local papers soon be a thing of the past?

After scrapping plans for an ‘ultra-local’ TV service in October 2007, the BBC has announced that it intends to develop a network of local, news-on-demand websites.

The proposals, to develop 60 websites at an estimated cost of £68 million, are currently being reviewed by Ofcom and the BBC Trust.

Should the plans be approved, local newspaper reporting as we know it, could come to an end.

A spokesperson from the BBC told the journalism industry website, Journalism.co.uk, ‘If approved, our proposal to put new video onto our existing local BBC websites will directly contribute to the public purpose of the BBC by better reflecting the nations, regions and communities of the UK.’

The video journalist, Michael Rosenblum, explains, ‘At present, the BBC websites each have staffs of four people. The proposal is to increase staffing by five per site over a five-year period. These new employees will be video journalists (VJs) whose task, rather obviously, will be to increase the video content.’

‘Struggle to compete’

As reported in Journalism.co.uk, ‘representatives of several major regional newspaper publishers said the plans showed a disregard for their industry and its achievements online.’

A Bournemouth blogger and Daily Echo journalist wrote, ‘I have no idea what the BBC Trust will decide. But with ITV cutting back, there is obviously an argument that local news needs a boost.’

The blogger explains: ‘The sad truth is that the BBC is so far ahead of most local newspaper’s websites that we’ll struggle to compete.’

Unclear future

In the latest twist to the story, lawyers representing the local UK press organisation, the Newspaper Society (NS), have written to the BBC Trust and Ofcom asking for the review to be suspended.

The BBC Trust’s involvement with the review into the websites, raises questions about the BBC’s self-regulation policies.

David Newell, NS director, told Journalism.co.uk: ‘The BBC Trust cannot be the chief cheerleader for the BBC, encouraging it to extend local services out of more and more taxpayers’ money, at the same time as being the independent regulator determining the public value of those services and their impact on local media.’

The future of local newspapers and the BBC’s ability to regulate itself, especially in light of ‘Sachsgate’remain unclear.

The results of the review by the BBC Trust and Ofcom into the website proposals are due on the 27th November.

 

Will Drysdale (willdrysdale@hotmail.co.uk)

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