Byford tries to pacify regional press

Byford: called for co-operation

BBC acting director general Mark Byford moved to placate a regional newspaper industry increasingly irritated with the corporation’s foray into regional website development this week, as he told editors that the broadcaster’s aim was “to be distinctive”, rather than encroach on their territory.

Speaking at the Newspaper Society’s annual lunch on Tuesday, Byford sought to distinguish between the BBC and regional newspapers’ online activities. The society had suggested in its submission to the Department for Media’s ongoing review of BBC online strategy, conducted by exTrinity Mirror chief executive Philip Graf, that online regional newpapers were under threat by the corporation’s Where I Live websites.

“The BBC’s Where I Live websites are at the heart of this extra dimension.

And of course it’s this aspect of our presence on the web that particularly concerns you – something you’ve also made clear in your submission to Philip’s review of our online services,” Byford said.

“But I do want to use this opportunity to make clear our priorities in this area. First is that our services have to be distinctive. That doesn’t mean that everything we do will be unique, but I do believe our emphasis should be on providing audiences with something different.

“That’s why we’ve invested in Video Nation sites, giving people the chance to make their own video diaries and reports. We’ve created a place where users generate their own content, from photo galleries to junior football match reports,” he said.

He added that the local websites had launched “social action campaigns” on issues ranging from debt to domestic violence.

“Creating more of these opportunities for people to generate their own content, particularly video content, is where our distinctiveness can lie.”

The acting director general also called for more co-operation between the BBC and regional newspapers.

“I believe we can all do more to acknowledge each other’s scoops, original fundraising successes, landmark campaigns or community initiatives. The BBC could certainly do better in this regard. I am sure it wouldn’t hurt local newspapers to do likewise for us.”

By Wale Azeez

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