BBC local media partnership plans welcomed by Culture Secretary


Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has welcomed plans for a new partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association to support local journalism.

The proposals equate to an overall investment of around £8 million a year.

From 2017, the BBC will fund a new team of 150 reporters employed by qualifying local news organisations to cover local authorities and public services.

Mr Whittingdale said the plans will ensure local media "thrives for years to come."

"Local and regional media plays a vital role in reporting issues that matter to communities and also helps hold local decision-makers to account," he said.

Mr Whittingdale added: "Given the challenges the industry is facing, these plans from the BBC and the News Media Association are welcome.

"They will need to be implemented carefully and in consultation with industry, but will help make sure our local media thrives for years to come."

The agreement with the News Media Association, the voice of national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK, will get under way as part of the new BBC Charter in 2017.

The key initiatives include a video news bank which enables BBC local video and audio news content to be accessed by other local news media websites.

The BBC will also invest in a data journalism unit which will work with partners across the industry to develop expertise and deliver content to all local news providers.

A jointly commissioned independent audit will establish the usage of local press content by the BBC on its media platforms and vice versa.

The results of this review will be published alongside the BBC's Annual Report and Accounts.

James Harding, Director, BBC News and Current Affairs, said: "These plans are not just a milestone in the relationship between the BBC and the local press.

"They will enhance local journalism, ensure greater accountability of people in public life and enable BBC audiences and newspaper readers to get better coverage of what's really happening in their communities."

He added: "These are big steps to strengthen local news."

Ashley Highfield, News Media Association chairman, said: "We believe this will strengthen and enhance local journalism, and the crucial role it has in holding local authorities to account, while maintaining the healthy competition between different news sources which is so important in a democracy.

"More coverage and content from councils will be more widely distributed ensuring greater accountability and transparency in an ever more devolved Britain."

He continued: "As the market leader in local news provision, the local news media industry has long been keen to explore a more positive relationship with the BBC which would be of real benefit to our readers and licence fee payers.

"More work is needed to finalise the details, but we have now all reached an agreement we believe will enable the BBC to benefit from local media's first class local journalism while providing an appropriate framework for use of this content."

Mr Highfield added: "Reaching 40 million people each week, local newspapers in print and digital sit at the heart of communities across the UK providing an invaluable public service which underpins democracy at a local level."