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29 November 2021

NMA Calls For Expansion Of 'Hugely Successful' Local News Partnership

The BBC should seek to collaborate, not compete, with commercial publishers by expanding the Local News Partnership to increase the output of local public interest journalism which has delivered so much value for communities across the UK, the News Media Association has said.

Speaking at the annual Local Democracy Reporting Service conference and awards in MediaCity, NMA chief executive Owen Meredith called for the BBC to work with the commercial sector to continue to expand the partnership and "ensure a truly vibrant and plural news eco-system fit for the digital age."

“At the heart of the partnership and undoubtedly its greatest success has been you, the Local Democracy Reporters, whose enormous contribution we are here today to celebrate," Mr Meredith told an audience of around 100 Local Democracy Reporters.

Mr Meredith's words follow a speech by Tim Davie at the awards on Friday in which the BBC Director-General reaffirmed the BBC’s commitment to the "crucially important partnership" through to at least 2027.

Mr Meredith said: “The Director-General just spoke of how proud the BBC is of your achievements and, on behalf of the commercial news media sector – who we at the NMA represent - I wholeheartedly echo those sentiments and thank you for your work.”

Since it was launched, the partnership between the NMA and the BBC has seen nearly a quarter of a million local public interest stories delivered to the public through highly trusted local news media platforms with content now reaching between eight and 10 million people every week. 

Earlier this week, the NMA welcomed Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ comments saying that she supports further expansion of the scheme which the NMA believes could make an even more significant contribution to local journalism than it does currently. 

New figures from JICREG Life Is Local show that audiences have rocketed for the commercial local news media sector over the past year with online audiences increasing by nearly a fifth in just 12 months.

Local media now reaches 42 million people a month in print and online, Mr Meredith told an audience of Local Democracy Reporters. 

He added: "Throughout the pandemic, you have continued to deliver high quality local public interest journalism in unprecedented circumstances, under challenging conditions.  

"There are numerous examples of these stories, such as the shocking revelation that a family in Walsall had received used swab tests, and the countless interviews with front line workers, exposing the enormous pressure placed on our health services by the pandemic.

"Of course, the benefit of the partnership was very apparent before the pandemic struck, with countless stories gleaned from sitting through council meetings, poring over papers, and your contacts within local public bodies.

He added: "Your work underpins democracy in communities up and down the UK and that’s immensely valuable for us all."