THE CEO of Newsquest, the country’s leading local news publisher, has criticised plans for the BBC to increase its online local news output across the UK.
The BBC recently announced that it is to redirect significant resource from its highly respected local radio in England offering into digital local news which would result in the BBC competing directly with commercial local news publishers online.
It would see the BBC create 11 investigative reporting teams across the country while increasing its daily online news provision for 43 local areas, and launching dedicated websites covering Bradford, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Peterborough, with a total of 131 new local news jobs created.
However, Henry Faure Walker, CEO at Newsquest, which publishes 200 news brands including this one, said on the BBC’s Media Show: “We’re very concerned about the BBC’s expansion into local online news. We think it’s potentially very damaging.
“It will further undermine the efforts of ourselves and other commercial news publishers to build a sustainable future because it diverts eyeballs away from our sites – which we rely on to drive advertising revenue and to drive digital subscription revenue – to the BBC.”
Faure Walker’s comments followed an interview on the same show with the BBC’s director of local nations, Rhodri Talfan Davies, who defended the expansion plans which include launching further into areas such as Bradford, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Peterborough.
But Faure Walker said: “We are the proud publishers of the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford. We employ 18 local journalists in Bradford and we think the market is very well-served. We reach approximately 80% of the Bradford population each month so I don’t see the need for the BBC to come into this space.
He added, as he called on Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator to intervene: “The BBC should not be using the licence fee to do things that are already well-provided by the commercial news sector and make it even tougher for local news publishers.”
Talfan Davies told the show’s presenter Katie Razzall: “We’re not here to steal market share from anybody. We’re here to provide a trusted consistent news service to local communities as our charter requires of us.”
The interview can be heard here.