Regional heads call latest BBC local TV assurances 'spin and nonsense'

Leading figures from the regional press have condemned the BBC‘s revised plans for local video content as ‘pure spin and nonsense”.

The BBC had shelved hugely controversial plans to launch ultra-local content on television but last week unveiled new proposals to roll out video news content across 60 regions online.

Ian Davies, director of business development for Archant, said the BBC had simply repositioned the corporation’s ambitions in local news and content from satellite to broadband.

Davies said: ‘Positioning the BBC’s revised ultra-local multimedia plans as a ‘slimming down’ of the previous proposals, existing at a geographic level which won’t conflict with the activities of local newspapers, is pure spin and nonsense.

‘The costly transmission channel of satellite has been removed and been replaced by upgraded broadband delivery which allows multimedia news stories to be selected down to village level. Few medium-sized newspapers can justify the effort required to create 10 multimedia and video stories a day. Why? – The commercial model doesn’t justify £23m of spend on this activity.”

The BBC has promised to build in a series of limits to the sites in a bid to deal with commercial operators’ concerns. It said it wants to limit the number of video stories it produces to 10 a day for each service.

It is also looking to boost traffic to local newspapers’ sites through features highlighting other news providers’ top stories and providing click-throughs.

On plans to promote other local services, Davies said: ‘I look forward to the link on BBC websites which says – ‘click here to see the source of the story we picked up from the local press then spent public money on enhancing to compete with the originating newspaper’.”

John Meehan, regional editorial director, Northcliffe Media North East, will represent Northcliffe during the consultation process into the BBC plans. He said Northcliffe remained ‘deeply concerned’about the proposals.

He said: ‘The BBC’s plans are an entirely unjustified use of licence fee funding to encroach further into the market for local news.

‘Regional media is already providing comprehensive news and information services online. We’re introducing new digital services all the time. Why, therefore, should the BBC be permitted to use taxpayers’ money to duplicate services already provided or being developed by commercial operators?

‘The BBC’s proposed expanded local sites will not be distinctive. The public’s appetite for local news and information through digital channels is being met by us. There is no demand that is not being fulfilled.”

The BBC has put the proposals before the BBC Trust, which could then start a public consultation process, expected to take six months.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, whose vice-chairman Philip Graf is a former chief executive of one of the biggest regional newspaper operators, Trinity Mirror, will have to carry out a market impact assessment.

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