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25 November 2021

Culture Secretary Calls For Expansion Of Local News Partnership

Nadine Dorries has highlighted the enormous public value created by Local News Partnership while reminding MPs of local news sector campaigns against previous attempts by the BBC to aggressively launch licence fee-funded local news services into local communities.

In evidence to MPs as part of a DCMS Select Committee hearing this week, the Culture Secretary told MPs of her support for local journalism, citing her op ed for the News Media Association’s Journalism Matters campaign as evidence of her backing for the sector.

She said the Local News Partnership between the NMA and the BBC was “incredibly important” and an expansion of the scheme would be discussed with the BBC as part of mid-term review conversations next year.  

Addressing MPs, Ms Dorries said: “There are many people within society who actually depend on their local newspapers, their local TV channels, to know what’s happening locally and to know what’s going on in their community.

“They’re a really important cohesive element of local communities and what happens in an even wider basis in local regions.” 

She said she remembered previous occasions where the local news media sector had campaigned against BBC plans to beef up its own local news services amid fears local newspapers would be crowded out by the plans

“I remember lots of local newspapers coming down to Parliament, going to Downing Street, coming to talk to MPs, and campaigning then for local news content not to be crowded out by the bigger giants of public service broadcasting, because it is incredibly important to communities.”

More recently, the NMA has called for the BBC to abandon plans to beef up its own local news services in the ‘Across the UK’ plans, warning they could pose a threat to commercial local news providers. Instead, they should invest further in the Local News Partnership which was carefully designed to avoid distorting the marketplace.

She added: “Sustainability of the press and local news is an issue which is something I think is incredibly important."

She said news reporting was “an important function of society” but faced a challenge from the tech platforms. “Therefore, our democracy is slightly undermined because ‘what do we depend on as a democracy to inform us and to provide us with the news?’

“Very much journalism and very much local news. And I think the sustainability of the press is very much an issue that’s going to come on the horizon in the future,” the Culture Secretary said.   

Asked by Simon Jupp MP if the “fantastic” Local News Partnership between the NMA and the BBC, could be enhanced, Nadine Dorries responded: “Yes, I don’t see why it couldn’t be or shouldn’t be.”

Responding to Committee Chairman Julian Knight MP asking how she would see the scheme expanded, she responded. “When we start the mid term review discussions next year it’s something that we will be discussing with them.

“It’s incredibly important, it’s part of regional news and it’s part of exactly what I’ve just spoken to, to that point.”