The Commons Media Select Committee report into the BBC has added further impetus to a rebalancing of the BBC’s relationship with local media – whether papers, websites, tweeters etc. Although they don’t mention the independent hyperlocal web explicitly the Committee says:
’30. The BBC must not expect to receive others’ news content without providing something in return. We are attracted by the idea of exchanges of content and information, where the BBC local websites link to the source of local material they have used, and in return the BBC allows others to use its content and embed BBC clips on their sites, where these would be of local interest, under a licence agreement. There need not be a financial transaction.’
I’ve been banging on about the BBC giving news stuff away for ages, including on the BBC’s own website – I estimate that over 90% of the BBC’s daily output has no realisable commercial value – in fact statistically, by minutes this is probably over 99%. It will just be locked up behind restrictive licences for ever. The public loses any chance of making further social return upon this huge investment of taxpayers money. Giving news and current affairs stuff away, especially at a local level adds to the news ecology and helps buttress plurality against a shrinking number of editorial staff per square mile in the local press. I raised this with John Whittingdale MP the Committee Chair at a DCMS meeting I attended with Carnegie UK trust . The current situation is daft – I am engaged in an absurd exchange at the moment with a BBC local radio station to be given permission to re-use on the web a 5 minute clip of a local activist in a drive time show – apparently ‘copyright’ prevents this.
The Secretary of State posed the question in his Society of Editors Speech:
‘As with so many of the changes brought about by the internet, it raises a lot of questions.
Is it healthy for a publicly funded broadcaster to compete with commercial newspapers?
Should the BBC share its local public service content under a creative commons licence?
And the general thrust of James Harding’s future of news document was about the BBC doing more at a local level, even though that document had a tin ear for the commercial terms of trade that would make the palatable. Causing predictable outrage from Ashley Highfield at Johnston Press, himself a former BBC employee – Highfield had had a more measured view last year after meeting with BBC DG Tony Hall and James Harding. Personally I think this was deliberate by Harding so the BBC could be dragged to it.
Anyway – several rounds of slugging to go on this – the next big shift will be something from the BBC after the election I guess. Maybe we can chat about it at #TAL15 on Saturday.
Here’s what the committee had to say about the local thing in full:
Local and regional media
28. We believe there must be a more symbiotic relationship between local media and the BBC, where each benefits from the other. The BBC as the dominant partner must always be mindful of the effect of its activities on regional media groups and their ability to turn a profit, given the greater certainty resulting from its publicly-funded position. The BBC Trust’s conclusions from its 2013 review of BBC Online, where it called on the BBC management to make sites more local, demonstrated a disregard for the health of local journalism. (Paragraph 171)
29. Whilst the BBC appears to make the right gestures in supporting local and regional media organisations in the run-up to Charter Reviews, we believe more definite commitments in respect of its interactions with the press must be codified into any future Charter framework. (Paragraph 172)
30. The BBC must not expect to receive others’ news content without providing something in return. We are attracted by the idea of exchanges of content and information, where the BBC local websites link to the source of local material they have used, and in return the BBC allows others to use its content and embed BBC clips on their sites, where these would be of local interest, under a licence agreement. There need not be a financial transaction. However, we also see the case for the BBC outsourcing the supply of some local content on a commercial basis, where there is an ongoing requirement for such material, and it is a more cost-effective way of meeting this need. We recommend this be ensured by extending the BBC’s independent production quota to cover local news. (Paragraph 173)
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