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27 January 2022

NMA Warns Any BBC Investment In Local Must Be Through Partnership With Commercial Sector 

The News Media Association has said that any further BBC investment in local news provision must be channelled through partnership initiatives such as the Local News Partnership and not through ramping up its own local services after Tim Davie said the BBC would “invest heavily” in local.

In a recent letter to the BBC Board from the NMA Board, NMA chief executive Owen Meredith warned that plans to boost its own local new services set out in 'Across the UK' could risk crowding out independent commercial local news media.

Instead, the BBC should invest in the Local News Partnership which was set up by the BBC and the NMA to provide a shot in the arm for local public interest reporting in communities across the UK. 

Yesterday, in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, BBC director general Tim Davie said the BBC planned to “invest heavily” in local.

Asking about the BBC's provision of local news, Committee member Sarah Olney MP said: "There's also quite a strong role for the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which supports communities all over the country.

“[We have here] a room full of people who absolutely love local democracy reporting. I just want to know if that’s going to be secure in the future and that there's going to continue to be a role for that?”

Mr Davie responded: “I'm very proud of the Local Democracy Reporters. There were questions at the beginning weren't there, but 165 now working, over 200,000 articles posted."

He added: "It's a priority but what you’re not going to get from me here is every area of the BBC has protected status.

"Just to be clear, it is a strategic priority for us, we are going to invest in local heavily. I would personally like to do more in local in terms of nonlinear.. and we've got try and work out how we can find money to do that.”

Responding to Mr Davie’s comments, NMA chief executive Mr Meredith said: “The BBC must not crowd out independent local news media by ramping up its own local licence-fee funded news services.

“As the Committee heard yesterday, the Local News Partnership is widely admired and has provided a template for how the BBC can help in the local news space without pushing out commercial players.

“We urge the BBC to abandon plans to boost its own local news services, as outlined in ‘Across the UK’, and instead think about how it can work with the local news sector through initiatives such as the Local News Partnership which deliver real benefit to communities across the UK.”

New research has shown that MPs overwhelmingly believe that commercial local news media is vital for communities and must not be crowded out by the BBC expanding its own local news services.