NMA ‘Disappointed’ That BBC Pressing Ahead With ‘Across The UK’ Plans

The BBC must step back from its “misguided plans” to boost its own local news services, in direct competition with commercial providers, to avoid damaging local journalism, the News Media Association has said.

Responding to BBC director-general Tim Davie’s speech yesterday setting out the BBC’s plans for the future following the recent licence fee funding settlement, NMA chief executive Owen Meredith urged the BBC to look instead at partnering with the local news media sector through initiatives like the News Partnership. 

Owen said: “It is disappointing that the BBC has not taken the opportunity presented to it by the licence fee funding settlement to step back from its misguided plans to boost its own local news services, in direct competition with commercial providers.  

“If they go ahead, these proposals would have a profoundly negative impact upon independent local news providers, resulting in a weakening of local news provision in this country.

“The government has confirmed today that it will look specifically at the issue of the BBC’s impact on local news media as part of the mid-term review, and the NMA and our members will engage fully in this process.” 

In the terms of reference for the BBC mid-term review, the government that confirmed competition and market impact was one of the key considerations saying that it would evaluate how the BBC and Ofcom assess the market impact and public value of the BBC in an evolving marketplace.

The review will look at how that relates to the wider UK media ecology, including with regard to commercial radio and local news sectors and other content makers and distributors, the government said, adding that it aims to compete the review within 12 months.

Responding to Mr Davie’s speech, Owen added: “We welcome the BBC’s renewed commitment to funding the successful Local News Partnership for the duration of the current charter, and urge the BBC to look again at ways to partner with the local news sector through models like this, rather than compete with it.   

“If the BBC refuses to change course, it will be important that the negative impacts of the Across the UK plans on independent local news providers are fully understood and considered through the appropriate market impact assessment processes and the mid-term review.” 

In his speech, Mr Davie said the BBC would reshape its local services with a multimedia BBC presence in over 40 towns and cities. A new network of journalists to focus on “original storytelling rooted in our communities across England”  increasing the BBC’s investment in local current affairs would be created.

He added: “We will fully roll out and continuously improve the new News app as a signed-in experience. We will grow our live news pages and transform the quality, prominence and impact of local news.”