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19 October 2018

Dinsmore: BBC ‘Directly Challenging’ Tabloid Journalism  

The BBC is directly challenging core tabloid journalism by taking away  online traffic from commercial news providers and must be held to account, David Dinsmore has said.

Speaking at Press Gazette’s Digital Journalism Summit, Mr Dinsmore said the BBC had become the digital news publisher and was now “entrenching that position with no scrutiny or challenge.”

“The BBC has become Britain’s largest publisher and it competes directly with all of the news publishing industry,” News Media Association chairman Mr Dinsmore said.

“They are chasing online traffic by publishing popular news content which bares no resemblance to the BBC’s charter commitments, and they are challenging subscription websites by offering commentary, analysis and long-form journalism.

“Vitally, by offering all of this for free, they are reducing the leverage of commercial publishers to challenge the platforms to offer a fair value for our content.

“If we all had vast resources, the ability to publish free, and the SEO capability to put us at the top of Google, we would have a level playing field. But we don’t. We we have to make our journalism pay.

Mr Dinsmore said the BBC had strayed from its editorial remit and was chasing clicks by publishing populist content such as stories about Love Island and Strictly Come Dancing

“To be clear, I am not criticising the BBC for the provision of high-quality, impartial news online. That is its remit and the UK should be proud,” Mr Dinsmore added.   

“I am challenging whether it should now be for BBC News online to tell me if I should take up Tai Chi or Zumba and whether I may need to take a break from Netflix.  

“Analysis and commentary, be it about sports or politics, is another area that newspapers used to be able to offer uniquely to their audiences. But the BBC is getting into that too. Reputable broadcasters and pundits are now turning their hand to writing columns.

Mr Dinsmore added: “The BBC should return to its core public purpose of serving impartial news, and content that is not well-served by the commercial sector.   Much closer attention must be paid to how licence-fee money is being spent and what output the BBC is publishing.”

In his speech, Mr Dinsmore said he was pleased that the issues affecting the news media industry were now getting the attention of policy makers and politicians, and that the focus was now on finding solutions rather than articulating the problems.  

“It’s fair to say that the Cairncross review is a once in a lifetime opportunity to level the playfield between the news content creators and those who take all the revenue without taking any of the risk or making any investment,” he added.