A prototype of a new ultralocal BBC website has been unveilled by BBC Controller of English Regions Andy Griffee during a lecture at Coventry University.
The BBC’s plans for ultralocal news have long been seen as controversial. Regional newspaper publishers have feared that licence-fee funded local news online could threaten the development of an online commercial model for regional newspapers.
Plans for ultra local television were scrapped in October as part of the corporation’s restructuring.
At the time, it was suggested that the Corporation would instead focus on localised, a personalised online service known as MyNewsNow, which had been announced in July..
Griffee refused to reveal the name of the proposed website, but gave his audience a glimpse of what can be expected if given the go-ahead by the BBC Trust.
Under the plans outlined by Griffee, 60 websites will be launched covering the BBC’s regions in Britain and Northern Ireland, including 40 in England.
Griffee demonstrated how text, audio and video news could be navigated using a map of a specified region.
The prototype covers news, sport, travel and weather with symbols providing user’s the main means of navigating between sections of the site.
“E-democracy” will also enable people to research politicians and political parties via more interactive and informative means.
Users will be able to customise their content to ‘greater levels of granularity’and will be able to easily access to other BBC content and external websites, a feature Grifee described as “good for democracy”.
Griffee said: ‘It is work in progress but I intend to go to the BBC Trust and seek their permission to launch it. User’s can decide how local is important to them. It brings everything together in one place.
‘The internet is not about doing less – it’s about doing more. People are interested at different times of the week about what is local to them. Making sure video news has a longer shelf life means people don’t have to make that appointment. It’s available anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”
In December, BBC director general Mark Thompson told a House of Lords committee that the BBC intends expand local radio and will seek the approval of the BBC Trust this spring.