Thursday, January 29, 2015

Opinion formed 2

The BBC's Future of News project wants to provide more regional and local services online. “The changes in the news industry mean that there are gaps in the coverage of our country and they are growing,” the report says. “At the same time, power is devolving. The BBC is going to have to make the most of digital services, alongside radio and television, to ensure people have the information they need where they live and work.”

The chief executive of Johnston Press, Ashley Highfield, has yet to explode on Twitter, but I'm sure he will once he gets round to reading the report. James Harding has spent a year trying to cultivate regional and local press, with the temptation of free content - and yet, here comes another, as yet unfunded expansionist proposition. (Remember the 2008 plans for news, sport and weather video on 60 BBC Local websites, budgeted on 400 staff ? - and the 2009 plans for 60 ultra-local websites of 2008 ?)

The report confesses that Auntie's existing local radio stations now only cover "live" news 12 hours a day, with weekend political shows pre-recorded on Fridays. One might suggest that the audiences have noticed. The Future of News says 56% of people want more local news. I'm not sure that the commercial local tv experience backs that.

On social media, issue and news-led debates spark off in all sorts of places. The BBC a long time ago decided to get out of active moderation of forums, as too expensive and, for the moderators, too boring. But there may be a way of the BBC hosting a local news conversation as a way forward (as it used to do on local radio, but now seems to prefer a rather soggy music of music and "chat" for most of its live 12 hours). It could mix in with the "local live" pages, and may be more interesting that news that bin collections have been disrupted by snow. Many people would have guessed that.

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