BBC Local Decision: Reaction
Last week the BBC Trust rejected plans to invest £68 million in BBC Local services. Media regulator Ofcom believes annual revenues for local commercial providers would drop by 4%.
The Newspaper Society has welcomed the decision, saying:
We are pleased that the BBC Trust and Ofcom have responded to the industry's concerns and rejected the BBC Local Video plans for the time being. This is a proposal which the BBC should never have made and would have severely reduced consumers' media choice and the rich tapestry of local news and information provision in the UK"
Newspaper employers have spent years taking huge profits out of local media whilst cutting jobs. Now they have helped stop new jobs being created because they said such competition would stifle their investment.
Writing in yesterday's Observer, Peter Preston hails the decision as a blessing in disguise:
The trust, in a small but significant way, has offered the corporation a chance to silence some critics and become, once again, more appreciated for what it offers than for where it threatens to go next."
On PaidContent, Robert Andrews, condemns the trust's decision:
BBC Trust has gained a track record for restricting BBC innovation, mostly aiming to protect commercial media in a manner than makes the Beeb's place in the pecking order plain - the broadcaster can only launch a substantive digital initiative if someone else hasn't got there first."
Our own blogger-in-residence Steve Bowbrick says the decision is "sad", suggesting that the knock-on effect of a BBC investment in local news would be positive rather than negative:
The newsgathering and distribution facilities (studios, newsrooms, personnel, servers, bandwidth, CMS) purchased at wholesale rates by the BBC could be opened up to local players to produce real benefits to communities and struggling media outlets."
Blogger Daithí Mac Síthigh on his Lex Farenda blog says:
the Trust's report goes on at great length about how the proposed service would not reach out to all communities because it was broadband-only. Have they ever tried to watch streaming video over dial-up?
Daithí is also flattered that his blog post was picked up by the Today programme.
Guardian Media blogger Roy Greenslade describes the decision as the "first major example of the trust showing its muscles", but issues a warning to the regional press:
More and more people are seeking news online and they want a good service. Now, freed from the "burden" of BBC competition, publishers must prove that they are willing to do the job they have prevented the BBC from doing.
Cheshire-based journalist Louise Bolotin weighs in, saying that the regionals should see this as an opportunity to improve:
Regional newspapers are, as expected, heaving a huge sigh of relief. It's understandable as the BBC's video news proposals would undoubtedly have had an impact on local news provision. However, they should not feel threatened by the addition of one single web page to Aunty's sprawler of a site. They now have an opportunity to get their act together. If they are so worried about the BBC muscling to provide local news, then they need to provide it themselves in a more consumable form than they currently do."
Finally, Press Gazette gauges the reaction of the big names in regional press, complete with assurances from Trinity Mirror Chief Executive Sly Bailey:
We can now continue to invest without the fear that a publicly funded giant would be duplicating already existing services.
However, we will still be seeking assurances from the BBC Trust that the BBC will not be overstepping the boundaries of their current service licence by launching new hyperlocal map-based news services."
Dave Lee is co-editor, BBC Internet blog