The BBC measures its local broadcast output “in terms of diversity” in a bid to better “reflect” its paying audiences, the corporation’s head of English regional news has revealed
David Holdsworth, controller of BBC English Regions, made the comments as part of a panel debate marking 60 years of TV and radio covering the West of England, hosted by BBC Points West.
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Holdsworth (pictured top, far right) said: “We have a responsibility to serve all the audiences that pay for us. The risk is that we lag behind the way that the demographics of the country are changing.
“So the point has been made about the make-up of our work force and what we need to do is to continue to address [it].
“So we are running schemes to try to change the workforce. We measure our output in terms of diversity. We actually talk to the staff about it. We try to shift our agenda. All the time, it’s about transforming the output to reflect the population you’re serving.”
The 90-minute debate on Wednesday, which was supported by the Royal Television Society and the University of the West of England, centred around the future of local and community news.
Chaired by broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, panelists included Holdsworth, City University journalism professor Roy Greenslade, Trinity Mirror Gloucestershire senior editor Rachel Sugden and Julz Davis, station manager of Bristol community radio station Ujima.
Holdsworth said he believed there would be “even more choice” of local news services in the future and an “even bigger responsibility on all of us to provide the trust that we know our users want.”
Sugden said: “The figures suggest that people don’t want print products anymore. What they do want is quality local journalism, they want it immediately, now, on their mobile phone and we have so much data at our fingertips that we are able to deliver exactly what people want, when they want to read it.”
She added: “There are issues in the local press, local digital newsroom around diversity, around equal access, equal opportunity. But I feel very strongly that professional local journalism has a place and will continue to have a place long into the future.”
Davis added: “I think there needs to be more investment in community media but that does need to come from the public purse.”