BBC and the News Media Association move forward with major Licence Fee investment into local journalism sector

By Matt Abbott | 2nd Feb 2017

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*This is an official press release from the BBC

Unique and ambitious partnership plans including the creation of 150 local democracy reporters have now been given the go-ahead for roll out across the country, outlined in joint proposals by the  BBC and the News Media Association last May.

Following months of detailed work and consultation with the providers of local journalism right across the UK , including the hyperlocal and local TV sector, the BBC and the NMA will now take forward agreed proposals which aim to invest in the local news media,  increase coverage of public services and institutions  and use the expertise of both the BBC and the local news sector for the benefit of all audiences.

Alongside the creation of the local democracy reporters, the plans also includes the creation of a News Bank- including audio and video – and a Data Journalism Hub.

Local democracy reporters: will be funded by the BBC and employed by qualifying local news organisations to cover councils and public services. The stories they generate will then be available for use by local news organisations and the BBC. The qualification criteria for news organisations has also now been agreed along with proposals drawn up outlining where they will be dispersed across the country. The ambition is that there will be a phased implementation of reporters, region by region, starting this summer and completing in 2018.

NewsBank: will give outside online media organisations access to BBC video and audio material shortly after transmission. The NewsBank, which is due to become operational later this year  will enhance other news organisations’ online offering as well as making BBC News output more accessible to audiences online.

The Data Journalism Hub: will also be funded by the BBC with seconded staff from the local news industry, making data journalism available to news organisations across the media industry linking in with existing and similar units run by press companies and not-for-profit organisations. The first wave of recruitment into the Hub starts in the spring.

Independent Audit of Usage: Local news content will be audited looking at potential crossovers between the BBC and other news providers. The outcome of the audit will inform a review of the BBC’s efforts to improve linking and attribution of stories and sources.

All the plans will be funded by an investment from the BBC Licence Fee of up to £8million a year for the duration of the new Royal Charter and will be subject to joint annual review by the BBC and NMA.

James Harding, Director, BBC News and Current Affairs said: “As more power is devolved across the UK, it’s more important than ever that we cover, understand and hold to account local politicians and public services.   The BBC has worked hard with local news organisations to develop a scheme that gives an opportunity to a new generation of reporters and strengthens the local news coverage for all our audiences. “ 

Welcoming the initiative Ashley Highfield, Chairman of the NMA, said: “This groundbreaking partnership will enhance democracy at a local level by increasing and strengthening coverage of local authorities and public services, while maintaining the healthy competition between different news sources.

“Local newspapers in print and digital have a unique and highly trusted relationship with the communities they serve. This agreement will enable the BBC to benefit from our first-class local journalism, and the local news sector to be fairly rewarded for its content within an appropriate and robust framework.”

The journalists will be under the editorial direction and control of their employers, processes will be jointly agreed to ensure the quality of coverage is in line with the BBC’s public service obligations.

The number of journalists in the Local Public Sector Reporting Service will rise to 200 journalists depending on the outcome of a joint review of usage in 2019. If the usage of the journalism on BBC outlets warrants increasing the numbers from 150 to 200 in 2019, the further 50 journalists could be funded from a number of different sources including revenues raised by the participating news media groups from advertising against BBC news bank video content.

The News Media Association is the voice of national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK- a £5 billion sector read by 48 million adults every month in print and online. It exists to promote the interests of news media publishers to government, regulatory authorities, industry bodies and other organisations whose work affects the industry.

The proposals were outlined in a joint letter in May from NMA chairman Ashley Highfield and James Harding, director, BBC News and Current Affairs , to the then Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, which identified a number of initiatives where the BBC and NMA could work together and in the Government’s White Paper proposals for the BBC Charter.

The BBC has convened a cross-industry Local Journalism Working Group since the summer of 2014. Broadcasters, print and online publishers and news agencies are represented, varying in scale from the largest regional news company to the very smallest independent publishers. Additionally, the BBC hosts a twice-yearly Hyperlocal Forum to engage directly with the independent online news sector.

 

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