BBC Trust: Regulator Must Oversee Impact of BBC on Commercial Local News Providers

The BBC’s local activities should be “effectively policed” by the BBC’s future regulator to ensure that there is no damaging impact on independent news providers, with partnership playing a central role, the BBC Trust has recommended.  

In a report entitled BBC Local Radio and Local News and Current Affairs in England, the BBC Trust said “given the deep concerns regarding the potential impact of the BBC on local news markets, we are clear that there is a need for ongoing regulatory oversight of BBC’s scope in local news.”

The report strongly supported partnership with the commercial sector. “We strongly support the BBC’s commitment to working in partnership with other local providers, as we believe this can help sustain a plural local media market,” the report added.

“The BBC is working with other providers of local journalism on some online initiatives already and it is discussing how broader partnerships can be forged in this area. We are clear about the importance of the BBC working with other local providers in order to sustain a plural and high-quality local news market and are encouraged by its commitment to developing partnerships. 

“As it does this, it is important that the BBC continues to work collaboratively with other local news providers and is mindful of its potential to impact the market negatively,” the report added.

The report quoted the News Media Association’s submission to the review in which the NMA warned that “the BBC’s stated ambition to expand online news provision threatens to crowd out commercial news providers at local, national and international levels.”

“The Trust concluded that local news is an area where the need for plurality and for maintaining high-quality journalism means that the BBC must be very careful in its actions and the Trust and any successor regulatory body will need to ensure that the scope of BBC activity is effectively policed.”

The report added: “We have also heard an allegation that the BBC takes stories from regional press to use on radio and on its website and fails to attribute these.

“In our review of BBC network news published in 2014, we asked the BBC to provide online links to external news providers and to credit external sources. BBC News has started to improve linking and credits to external local sources, although there is still further to go in terms of instory linking.”