Monday, 30 June 2008

What does BBC Local mean for regional press?

There is already some good debate going on about the BBC's new attempt to widen its local video-based coverage across the UK.

Andrew Grant-Adamson writes:

It is worth going back to the source material and looking at BBC’s proposal. Done properly, the scheme could help make local independent news websites more viable. Most of the local content would be made available for embedding (with BBC branding) in both commercial and not-for-profit sites to supplement their own coverage. The BBC also says it would link to coverage by other local news providers.

Competition isn't all bad, regional press shouldn't necessarily have the monopoly on any location, and the BBC would have to work alongside the local press titles rather than it being a blatant race to the story.

But inevitably there will be duplication of coverage, and I can guess where most people will go first given the choice, because the BBC is, well the BBC. For all its faults - and even recent mistakes - it remains one of the most respected news providers across the world.

As the regional newspaper market struggles in the current economic climate to progress its digital output and improve its web offering, the BBC would remain a well-equipped, well-trained and confident provider of local content, backed up by its enormous raft of related and supporting content.

As Roy Greenslade concludes:
There appears to be no compromise. The BBC feels it is acting logically by fulfilling its public service remit. Regional owners are also acting logically by defending their turf. In truth, both reflect the fact that none of us know what the future holds.

Will the BBC's plan help local papers, as Grant-Adamson suggests? Or will it plunge another dagger into the body of dying newspaper companies? I rather think it will be the latter. But the big question, of course, is whether that is really such a calamitous outcome.

As Greenslade rightly points out, nobody knows how the press, let alone the regional press in particular will survive over the next few years. This potentially adds an additional burden as the economic downturn and advertising slump leave businesses, aka potential advertisers and the public, aka potential newspaper buyers look to spend every penny wisely.

There are pros and cons to the BBC's plans, but if they do get the go-ahead, there should be some constructive positive discussion with the regional press titles in order to make best use of the Beeb's content and strong link-backs to existing local press's online coverage.

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