BBC says Local Live rolling news website feature will increase in links to regional press

The BBC has announced plans to roll out a website feature which it says will improve linking to local newspaper stories across England.

Following successful pilots in West Yorkshire and the North East, the BBC Local Live stream is to be taken to Birmingham (pictured) and will be used across the country by mid-2016, according to the corporation.

Last week, Chancellor George Osborne warned the BBC against "suffocating local news" and said it needs "to be the national broadcaster without being a monopoly broadcaster".

After reporting this news, The Times then accused the corporation of "website imperialism". Its editorial said: "The… solution is to remind the BBC that it is, by charter, a broadcaster and not an online newspaper."

According to the BBC, the Local Live system works by newspapers sending in links to "their strongest stories which then feature on the BBC News website".

A statement from the corporation said: "The announcement is part of a BBC commitment to contribute to a healthy local journalism sector.

"A working party made up of representatives of many local news organisations have discussed a number  of cross-industry initiatives over the last nine months."

The BBC said its Local Live streams aim to provide "short form updates and will now incorporate local press and ‘hyperlocal’ links into a feed allowing users to choose onward online journeys to external media, original BBC journalism and user-generated content". 

It said that in the pilot areas, a quarter of daily news content on the Local Live streams are "curated links to other local news providers".

The statement said: "By enabling publishers to freely choose the links they want to promote on the BBC and using clear branding this approach is enabling audiences to find the best local stories and point BBC users to external news sites."

David Holdsworth, controller of BBC English Regions, said: “Both audiences and local newspapers should benefit from this improved linking. Now a wider choice of material will be available across England from not only inside –  but outside the BBC – with the best external stories selected by the papers themselves.

“Local newspapers serve audiences across England and publish thousands more stories than the BBC every week. It is natural and healthy that journalists want to compete for stories, but this an example of a way the BBC can also contribute to a thriving local news market.”

According to the BBC, its local news websites in England generated 2.5m external link clicks a month in 2014.

It said that its local websites account for 45 per cent of external link clicks from the BBC News website and that this figure is up 13 per cent year on year.

If you are a newspaper journalist in West Yorkshire, the North East or Birmingham and have a view on the BBC Local Live stream – positive or negative – Press Gazette would like to hear from you and will ensure anonymity if you wish. Please email william.turvill@pressgazette.co.uk or call 02079366433.

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