Regional news outlets can now bid for contracts to hire BBC-funded “local democracy” reporters.
The pool of 150 reporters forms part of the Local News Partnership agreement between the BBC and the News Media Association (NMA) and will have a remit to report on councils and other public services.
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It is hoped they will go some way to plugging the so-called “democratic deficit” caused by cutbacks and closures in the regional news industry that have hampered coverage of local authority meetings and decisions.
Approved news outlets can bid to run the contracts for the reporters until 13 October, with applications to be made through the BBC’s Supplier Portal.
David Holdsworth, BBC’s controller of English regions, said the bidding stage was “another important milestone in the Local News Partnership”.
He added: “Reporting on council meetings and holding regional politicians to account is a major part of the democratic process.”
NMA chairman Ashley Highfield said: “Once recruited and in place [the local democracy reporters] will help to support the scrutiny our news organisations provide for the way public money is spent by local councils and authorities – which is a fundamental part of our local democracy.”
The Local News Partnership is backed by about £8m a year in public funding, secured for the next 11 years.
More than 600 news outlets across more than 50 news organisations have been approved as section one partners under the scheme. They will get access to an audio/video hub of BBC news content, a shared data journalism unit and content from the local democracy reporters.
The first of the new local democracy reporters are expected to be in newsrooms by the autumn.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The local democracy reporters will be under the editorial direction and control of their employers, but processes have been jointly agreed to ensure the quality of coverage is in line with the BBC’s public service obligations.”