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31 March 2021

Local Democracy Reporter Bid Results Revealed

News organisations that bid to employ Local Democracy Reporters have been notified if they have been successful.

A competitive tendering process to employ the reporters for the next three years has finished with the bidders notified of the results this week. The full list of suppliers will be published when the contracts have been signed.

Local Democracy Reporters provide vital scrutiny of decisions made on the public’s behalf. The journalism they produce is available to use for free to the BBC and its partners.

The Local News Partnership is a strategic partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association that sees the BBC fund journalists to cover the work of local councils and other local public bodies.

The scheme is being expanded with an additional 15 journalists, taking the total to 165 across the UK. And there will be journalists right across the country including for the first time in Orkney in the Highlands and Newry, Mourne and Down in Northern Ireland.

The BBC has recommitted to the Local News Partnership until the end of its current Charter in 2027. That means it will invest up to £8 million a year in the partnership.

The BBC currently funds 150 Local Democracy Reporters who have filed more than 190,000 stories, which are made available to everyone in the partnership since the scheme launched in January 2018.

The reporters are paid for by the BBC but they are employed by outside news media publishers, who are part of the partnership. The current contracts end in June and all 118 contracts have been put out to tender. The contracts for the next three years start in July.

The extra 15 reporter roles will help provide increased coverage of second-tier council authorities in the majority of English county council areas.

Once recruited, stories written by the democracy reporters will be shared with more than 1,000 media outlets signed up to be part of the Local News Partnership scheme.

A review published in June 2020 found the Local Democracy Reporters produced on average 1,200 stories a week across print, online, TV and radio. 

The landmark partnership between the BBC and the NMA also includes the News Hub, which gives local news providers access to relevant regional BBC video and audio content, as well as the Shared Data Unit. The unit based at BBC Birmingham, is made up of BBC staff and journalists seconded from partner news outlets who work on data-drive stories.

Matthew Barraclough, editor of the BBC’s Local News Partnerships, said: “We had a number of different news organisations bid for Local Democracy Reporting contracts for the first time during this process. We also had a real mix of news organisations, from some of the industry’s biggest names to local broadcasters. I’m really looking forward to working with the successful bidders over the coming years.”

Jeremy Clifford, chair of the NMA/BBC advisory panel, said:  “Throughout the pandemic we have absolutely seen the value of the Local Democracy Reporters. We now enter an important new stage in the partnership with a slightly expanded service. I am looking forward to seeing the contracts distributed that will enable us to move forward and develop the service further.”

The successful bidders will be revealed once the final contracts have been signed.