Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Here - and There - Is the Local News

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Here - and There - Is the Local News

Article excerpt

A battle is certain to break out between the BBC and the local newspaper industry over the Beeb's plan to launch local news services across 60 regions.

Most observers thought that the BBC's 'less-than-hoped-for' licence-fee settlement would end plans for local expansionism. Wrong. The wily corporation has found a way to do it by meeting the pounds 23m a year cost from internal savings once the roll-out is complete.

It's impressive that in these hard times, the BBC is still able to squeeze such savings from its Nations and Regions budget to pay for what almost amounts to a new online service. Equally impressive, 250 to 300 video journalist jobs will be created over the next five years, if the scheme is improved.

The BBC is absolutely not doing a local satellite television service here, as originally planned. This is not, however, because of any self-denying abstinence. The economics of a satellite-delivered service simply didn't stack up, and would probably have been abandoned whatever happened.

It would also be wrong of critics to complain that this is the original 'ultra-local' service in fresh livery. It is merely local, as opposed to ultra-local, the BBC insists, and, actually, it barely amounts to anything at all - only an 'enhancement' of existing services.

An annual budget of pounds 23m and up to 300 video journalists running around the country in search of stories, who will film, edit and script their own material sounds like a pretty significant 'enhancement' to me.

The BBC is making some concessions to its likely critics, or at least electing to include some self-imposed limitations. Talk to the man in charge of the project, David Holdsworth, deputy controller of BBC English Regions, and his attempts to reach an acceptable compromise seem genuine.

The proposal is to limit to 10 the number of videos shown each day on each site, which doesn't sound much like a restriction - are there really more than 10 top video stories a day crying out to be told in each area? More meaningfully, the agenda will be limited to news, sport, weather and travel, avoiding more commercial genres.

The service will be rolled out gradually up to 2013 - not much of a concession, as it couldn't be done overnight anyway.

Financial help has been stirred into the package, with a proposed pot to buy video material in from newspapers and provide links to their websites. …

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