Newspaper publishers have reacted angrily to plans by the BBC to further expand its local news output, despite repeated accusations that it retains an unfair competitive advantage from public funding which is threatening the viability of private publishers.
Regional newspapers have borne the brunt of cutbacks and readership declines in recent years as people migrate online to receive their daily news fix, principally through the BBC and websites of the national press.
This has left many more local titles struggling to fight their way out of the back of the couch and regain readers.
In a recent report the BBC committed itself to enhancing coverage of regional and local issues in light of a decline in output from local papers but by way of an olive branch offered to ‘open its news platforms to other providers’ such that rival media outlets could utilise its content – although no firm commitments have been made.
This approach doesn’t wash with the News Media Association however, with its legal, policy and regulatory affairs director Santha Rasaiah saying: “The industry has stressed repeatedly over many years that the licence fee-funded BBC must not do anything that could damage the commercial independent news media industry and its ability to perform this vital role.”
Last year home secretary Theresa May warned that the scope of the BBCs spread into local news was stifling democracy.