Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What the papers say

The Telegraph: As the corporation faces the renewal of its Royal Charter and the licence fee that underpins its £5 billion budget, one of the issues it faces is that its vast regional news operation is putting local newspapers and other commercial media out of business. They cannot compete with a rival that has near-limitless resources and the ability to give away its news for free.

The almost surreal response offered by Lord Hall to this concern was the creation of “a network of 100 public service reporters across the country” who will provide video and other content for commercial media outlets. In effect, the BBC’s answer to a problem caused by there being too many BBC journalists providing local news is to recruit more BBC journalists to provide local news.

The simple and better answer - for the BBC to reduce its activities in areas where the private sector can provide - was apparently not even considered by the corporation’s numerous and well-paid executives, who bizarrely deny that the BBC’s extensive coverage of local news has any adverse impact on local media firms.

Financial Times: In a world in which television is merging with the web, it makes little sense to draw hard lines between what the BBC does on TV and online. To fulfil its remit the corporation needs to be present in both. But rather than offer political sops to justify its online presence in sensitive areas, Lord Hall should set out what the BBC needs to do in text to fulfil its mission — and otherwise show restraint. Magazine features and local news do not make the cut.

The BBC has warned the income squeeze it faces will require deep cuts in the provision of services. This will necessitate hard choices. The website cannot be exempt from these.

Letter to The Times about the creation of 100 local "public service" reporters: This is a job presently done by a countrywide network of individual freelancers, stringers and small agencies such as ours, although of course we expect to be paid for our work. It says much for the BBC’s inability to get the beam out of its eye that it proposes to address one anti-competitive misuse of the TV licence — ie, the pressure that it puts on other publishers through its news website — by the creation of another. Tim Bugler Central Scotland News Agency

The Guardian on the Ideas Service: The BBC has yet to show that it is willing to work as a truly equal collaborator, instead of dominating its so-called partners as has so often been the case in the past. It will also have to show that the Ideas Service is of genuine benefit to its new partners and to its audiences, rather than simply a self-serving, circular way for it to suggest how open it is.

Is this really the public-service game-changer the BBC wants it to be? The kind of organisation it is proposing to work with, after all, is already producing its own content: museums, scientific bodies and universities have become makers of public-service material that they are eagerly and efficiently distributing themselves, though without, perhaps, the formidable reach the BBC can offer.

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