Latest News

16 July 2015

NMA: Green Paper is ‘Good Starting Point’ for Looking at BBC’s Impact Upon Independent Media

The News Media Association has said that the Government’s consultation on the BBC Charter Review today is a good starting point for looking at how the BBC’s activities impact upon independent commercial media.

Published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport this afternoon, the Green Paper  says that the Government will look at whether its provision of “extensive free online content”… “distorts audience share in a way that undermines commercial business models.”

In his statement to the House of Common, culture secretary John Whittingdale identified four key areas – mission, purpose and values; scale and scope; funding and governance.

The consultation, to which the NMA will be responding, says: "The BBC can have both a positive and a negative impact on the activities of its competitors. It has arguably helped the development of the sector by encouraging high standards and through investment in independent production and the infrastructure of media distribution.

“However, others make the case that the level of public funding gives the BBC an unfair advantage and distorts audience share in a way that undermines commercial business models.

"Local newspapers have found their business model eroded over recent years as new technologies, changes to consumer behaviour, loss of advertising and other market pressures have created significant challenges. The BBC does not provide services at as granular a level as local providers but could, in providing a wide range of content online as well as on radio and TV, have an impact on efforts by local news groups to develop compelling online and hyper-local services.

"The BBC's ability to cross-promote its own services has an impact on the wider market. ... Given other services are not able to advertise their content on the BBC there is a case for arguing that the nature and extent of this cross-promotion needs to be considered."

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield has been appointed to an eight-person panel of media experts to advise the Government on the BBC Charter renewal process. Responding to the consultation today, Mr Highfield said: “The BBC is rightly regarded as a national treasure envied around the world. The Charter Review is an opportunity to make sure it retains that position.

 “It is also a chance to look in detail at the impact it has on other areas including local newspapers.

 “Local papers can be a genuine partner to the BBC sharing content to our mutual benefit. It is local papers that are best placed to reach local audiences. A symbiotic relationship between us would help the BBC fulfil its charter objective ‘to truly serve and reflect the nations, regions and communities that make up the UK’."

Looking specifically at local news provision, the consultation says: “In the instance of local newspapers and other local media providers, the BBC can help support the industry by giving exposure to regionally- produced content and clear attribution when it uses news stories originally generated by or developed by the local press.

“For online content, the impact that the BBC’s online presence can have on others should be considered – not least on local news outlets, some of which have raised concerns that the BBC’s local presence is having an adverse impact on consumption of their content.

“This includes concerns that in some instances the BBC draws on content that local news organisations source without giving appropriate credit, so prompting calls for a specific local news quota to be established.”

Santha Rasaiah, NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director, said: “The Green Paper published today states clearly that Government intends to look at the BBC's scope and how the BBC’s activities affect independent commercial news providers.

 “The BBC’s increasing encroachment into areas already served by independent news media providers has been a matter of great concern to the industry for many years and these concerns have also been voiced repeatedly by both MPs and Government Ministers.

 “The Green Paper is a good starting point for defining the future role of the BBC, the role it should occupy in the news media landscape, and ensuring that its activities at an international, national, regional and local level cannot have a detrimental impact upon independent news providers.”