Culture Secretary backs plan for BBC to commission local news content

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has given his support to BBC plans to commission content from local news providers.

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in London this morning, Whittingdale said: "The BBC is not the cause of the problems facing local newspapers. But it has not helped."

He added: "Newspapers have rightly complained when the BBC has taken their stories and reproduced them without attribution.

"But the BBC’s declared intention to get more involved in local news coverage through collaborative work with local papers is welcome.

"Commissioning content about councils, courts and public services from local media outlets can support local newspapers and help to increase accountability."

In September BBC director general Tony Hall revealed plans for the BBC to fund 100 public service reporters across the country.

Whittingdale appeared to side with the News Media Association and National Union of Journalists in rejecting this plan.

He suggested in his speech that "the BBC employing [more] local journalists… would further undermine local media".

Whittingdale added: "Instead the BBC would commission local news content from local news providers which would then be available to all media outlets.

"I am delighted that the working group set up by the NMA to take this idea forward is making good progress."

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