HomeInsightsNews Media Association calls on BBC to withdraw plans to expand its provision of local news

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In an open letter to the BBC Board sent on behalf of the NMA Board and members, the chief executive of the NMA, Owen Meredith, called on the BBC to withdraw the plans set out in the BBC’s “Across the UK”.

In the letter, Mr Meredith said: “The provision of news, especially local news, is of vital interest and importance to all of us. Local news is crucial for sharing information across our communities – as has been seen throughout the pandemic – and is fundamental to our democratic society.

“As a group of publishers, collectively we represent the largest investors in independent journalism, reaching communities up and down the UK – read by more than 46 million adults every month, in print and digital. Yet the BBC is directly threatening the sustainability of independent local journalism with plans to be ever more local – as first set out in ‘Across the UK’ and since developed”.

Mr Owen notes that the recent beta launch of the BBC’s News App “demonstrates this unprecedented move into local news and represents a direct threat to the strength and plurality of news in the UK”.

Mr Owen also challenges the BBC’s conclusion, made in “Across the UK”, that the pandemic has “accelerated the decline in local media business models”. Mr Owen says that this conclusion is “plain wrong”, as shown by the sector’s growing audiences and investment. In fact, the BBC’s “uninformed” prediction of the demise of local news media “risks precipitating decline”, Mr Meredith says.

Recognising the BBC’s obligations under the Charter, Mr Meredith nonetheless calls on the BBC to “consider how its services affect other media organisations and minimise any negative impact on the wider market”. In Mr Meredith’s view, the BBC’s proposals “represent a direct threat to the economic sustainability of independent local news media, in turn undermining media plurality, diversity and consumer choice”.

Mr Meredith therefore asks the BBC Board to withdraw the local news plans set out in “Across the UK” and “commit to working in a meaningful way with the independent commercial news sector, setting boundaries to the BBC’s online news remit, to ensure access to quality journalism, from a range of sources, remains a cornerstone of UK democratic society”. To read the NMA’s press release in full, click here.

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