BBC needs to collaborate rather than compete with local media

BBC at ''media city, Salford
BBC at ''media city, Salford
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The BBC must work with local and regional media to safeguard the future of the industry, according to a report published this week.

The 69-page report, pro-duced by Oliver & Ohlbaum, looks at the changing market for local, national and international news services and the BBC’s role within it, as part of the BBC Charter Review process.

Ashley Highfield CEO of Johnston Press

Ashley Highfield CEO of Johnston Press

Entitled UK News Provision at the Crossroads: The News Market in the 21st Century and the Likely Implications for the BBC’s Role, it points out that newspapers, followed by the BBC, are the two largest news providers in the UK and both are vital to the overall news ecology and to democracy.

How they develop and relate to each other will determine the future of the UK’s diverse news provision sector.

The report suggests that a change in attitude is 
needed within the BBC in order for the changes to take place.

‘The execution of partnership strategies is never easy and will require cultural change, management will and strong oversight,’ the report said.

‘However the potential benefits to the sustainability of the UK news 
sector overall... are worth the effort.

‘The alternative vision of the future is much less desirable – a UK news media landscape dominated by social media, global news providers and with the BBC trying to fight in all corners.’

Ashley Highfield is chief executive of Johnston Press, who publish The News, and is also the vice-chairman of News Media Association (NMA).

He said: ‘The UK’s news media landscape will be best served by a BBC which genuinely collaborates with news media publishers rather than competing with them.

‘This would make far better use of the BBC’s stretched resources while allowing space for commercial 
news media to innovate and thrive.

‘The BBC repeatedly seeks to portray itself as a willing partner but all too often fails to deliver.

‘The O&O report outlines a framework for cooperation through content-sharing targets and effective governance to enable the BBC to focus on what it is good at and make a positive contribution to a diverse UK media industry.’

Oliver & Ohlbaum founder and chief executive, Mark Oliver, said: ‘Without a clear, externally-regulated co-operation framework for the expansion of its news services, the BBC’s drive to ‘do more’ risks becoming a contributory factor in the erosion of the wider UK news provision market.

‘By playing a complementary role, the BBC can help to support the commercially funded news market and leave room for commercial models to evolve and grow, maintaining and ultimately enhancing the strength of the UK news ecosystem.’

News Media Association chairman Mike Darcey, News UK chief executive, added: ‘News brands are successfully making the transition to a sustainable digital world despite undoubted challenges and risks along the way.

‘The BBC must not be given free rein to jeopardise that transition by expanding its local or international news services under the guise of providing a universal solution for a market failure which doesn’t exist.’

The NMA is calling on the government to implement 10 changes to the BBC objectives and governance to establish a system of accountability that enshrines collaboration between the BBC and commercial news providers.