Whenever the newsreader says “and now for the news where you are” I turn to the missus, pretend to hold a microphone and say “I’m having a cup of tea and the dog’s been dewormed”. Oh how I laugh. The wife? Not so much.
That’s the trouble with local news on the box. It’s rarely local. There’s usually the serious story about a stabbing on a council estate 50 miles away, a daft bloke complaining about his bus route being scrapped and a dog that plays Scrabble.
Most agencies don’t bother supplying the BBC with local stuff. There’s no money in it. No one has a budget but then they never have. Even when there was cash floating about for news, the BBC rarely seemed to let its local networks spend it on the likes of us.
We used to get called up by a graduate researcher who would say “hi, it’s BBC Melchester. We’re just following up your story in the Daily Mail and wondered if you could send us the copy?” Sure, how much will you pay? “Oh, we can’t pay. We’re hoping you’d let us have it now that it’s been in the papers.” But the papers paid for it. “Sorry, we don’t have a budget.”
To be fair it’s not just television. A lot of local papers now just republish press releases and don’t bother sending people to court or inquests or council meetings. Then they, like broadcast media, rely on the public to send in their videos and photographs. Coldest day for 50 years? Let’s see this lovely photo that Tom in Towcester has taken with his iPhone and let us has have for nothing. Want public opinion? Well, @beefymaguire has tweeted “so much for global warming #fakenews”. Thanks Beefy but I think your medication has worn off.
And the quality is not that great either. Someone on a regional news channel this week went to Princess Diana’s family’s estate and didn’t know how to pronounce Althorp (it’s Al-trup).
But, perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The BBC is looking to partner press agencies to provide more local news coverage. A lengthy document outlining this has been sent out. Personally, I’m not sure and will remain cynical. In one bit they talk about agencies being an “additive” to the BBC. If that’s how they are going to speak to the nation, I give up.
An occasional blog by a NAPA news agency boss who has asked to remain anonymous
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog