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September 10, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:19am

BBC-funded local democracy scheme given 75 per cent satisfaction rate from publishers

By James Walker

News outlets using the BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporting Service have given it a 75 per cent satisfaction score, according to a new survey.

The study also found that 3,500 LDR-generated stories were published or broadcast across the UK during a single week in June.

In response, JPI Media editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford repeated calls for the scheme, which is part of the Local News Partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association, to be expanded.

Since its launch in January 2018 the BBC has funded 144 LDR roles reporting on local authorities for regional publishers and broadcasters across England, Wales and Scotland.

The scheme was due to begin rolling out in Northern Ireland this summer. Once complete, this will bring the number of LDRs up to 150.

The study, commissioned by the BBC, asked every partner of the scheme to record all the stories based on the work of LDRs they published or broadcast between 3 and 9 June.

The 3,500 total finished stories were created from 1,350 individual stories by LDRs, while three-quarters of them were classed as major or lead items.

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Lead items built from LDR stories were either splashed across a front page or at the top of a news bulletin, while major items were newspaper page leads, within the top three items on a website or featured in broadcast bulletins.

Just over half of the stories appeared online (52 per cent) while 37 per cent were printed and 11 per cent were broadcast items.

Local News Partnership boss Matthew Barraclough said 98 per cent of content from local democracy reporters was used by at least one partner.

He added: “The service was created to support public service reporting and sustain local democracy.

“It is pleasing to see that stories created by Local Democracy Reporters are being used in such volume by news partners across England, Scotland and Wales.”

Clifford, who chairs the BBC/NMA advisory panel, said: “The results of this survey show that the Local News Partnership is generating significant amounts of local public interest journalism which publishers and broadcasters want to use for their audiences.

“The scheme has been an outstanding example of effective partnership.

“We believe there is ample evidence to support the recommendation by the Cairncross Review for this service to be expanded with more journalists reporting more widely and deeply into the affairs of public institutions.”

In her review into the sustainability of the UK news industry, published earlier this year, Dame Frances Cairncross said the management of an expanded LDR service should eventually be handed over to a new Institute for Public Interest News.

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