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Key milestones in the Local News Partnership project

Matthew Barraclough

Editor BBC Journalism Working Group

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We’ve reached three key milestones in the Local News Partnership project, with a fourth just around the corner.

Firstly, we have started to approve news organisations across the UK as Section 1 Partners. These partners have met the first part of the Eligibility Criteria and will be able to use the material generated by the project: the BBC’s local news video and audio, the content produced by the Shared Data Unit and the stories filed by the Local Democracy Reporters. We now have more than 600 organisations on board and we hope to welcome many more later this summer.

Secondly, following a tendering process we have found a technology partner to help us deliver all this content. StreamAMG currently helps the BBC World Service deliver content to its network of partners and we’re confident they’ll be able to provide a simple and smart solution for domestic news providers too. There’s a lot of work going on inside the BBC in parallel with this to make sure that every local television and radio clip and package finds its way into the new system, in the appropriate format and watermarked with the BBC blocks.

Thirdly, we’ve appointed the first two members of the BBC team which will run the Shared Data Unit and they are now focused on delivering UK-wide content in the autumn as well as welcoming secondments from partners to work alongside them in Birmingham.

Even more challenging than the technology is the network of reporters themselves. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a virtual agency, a network of journalists funded by the Licence Fee, working not for the BBC but for the whole local news sector in the UK. Despite sitting in different news rooms across the country, all the LDRs will follow a common editorial brief and a single set of standards. Local councils have a huge impact on our lives – it really matters that we all know what’s going on – and we believe that such a service will make a significant contribution to greater public understanding and engagement. Hard-pressed news teams will have access to high quality and trustworthy reporting from local authorities; the public will find out more about the decisions being made in their names; local councillors will be able to reach more constituents when they speak out.

We believe the LDRs will help drive up both the quality and quantity of local democratic reporting, and will help support local news organisations. But we are clear that they are not a solution to the financial challenges faced by some parts of the sector. The intention is to enrich local journalism for BBC audiences, but in a way which taps into the sector’s expertise and shares the fruits of that partnership as widely as possible.  Whatever shape local news takes in the coming years of this Charter period, we can at least be sure that there will be 150 impartial reporters out there working for the common good.

The next milestone of the project will be to award the contracts to host those reporters and to approve more partners to receive that content.

Matthew Barraclough is Editor BBC Journalism Working Group

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