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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Newspaper industry urges BBC to co-operate rather than compete as its seeks to influence charter renewal

By Dominic Ponsford

Leading newspaper publishers have called on the BBC to co-operate with them rather compete as part of a major contribution to the charter renewal debate.

The News Media Association has published a 69-page report making the case for the BBC no longer competing with commercial national and local news publishers.

The NMA represents most local and national newspaper and its report was compiled by Oliver and Ohlbaum.

It comes as the BBC faces a debate over how its remit will change with the renewal of its ten-year charter at the end of 2016.

Commercial newspaper publishers remain concerned that the BBC's growing web presence undermines their ability to make the transition from print to digital.

The document suggests that the BBC should in future:

  • Link to other news providers and direct audiences to other news outlets
  • Share content and use its national platform to “promote the best of UK journalism from all sources”
  • Sponsor and support original UK journalism
  • Buy in news content from independent commercial publishers.

NMA chairman, and News UK chief executive Mike Darcey, said: “News brands are successfully making the trasition to a sustainable digital world despite the undoubted challenges and risks along the way.

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"The BBC must not be given free rein to jeopardise that transition by expanding its local or international news services under the guise of providing a universal solution for a market failure that doesn’t exist.”.

NMA vice chairman Ashley Highfield is chief executive of Johnston Press and also a member of the eight-member panel appointed by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale to advise him on reviewing the BBC charter.

He said: “The UK’s news media landscape will be best served by a BBC which genuinely collaborates with news media publishers rather than competing with them. This would make far better use of the BBC’s stretched resources while allowing space for commercial news media to innovate and thrive.

The report claims that print newspaper publishers invest £1.1bn a year in original journalism in the UK, versus £460m spent by the BBC and £195m by commercial broadcasters.

The report warns that over the next ten years some parts of this news “ecosystem” could be “crowded out by increasing competition from overseas players (acting to secure market share in the UK based on a global news model) and an expansion of the BBC’s brief beyond its traditional boundaries".

The report says that BBC attempts to “plug the gaps” in local, national and international news markets could “hasten market failure”  by limiting the audience of commercially funded services.

Read the NMA report in full here: UK news provision at the crossroads – The news market in the 21st Century and the likely implications for the BBC’s role.

Enders Analysis has rejected the suggestion that the BBC is "crowding out" commercial news providers.

It said in a statement: "Our research shows that UK newspaper publishers have been damaged by the internet. They face inherent challenges in monetising online audiences, in common with other news publishers. To be blunt, the BBC plays no role in exacerbating these challenges.

"Scaling back BBC News will damage the UK’s sole source of impartial, quality and trusted news, whose independence is valued by users in the UK and around the world, risking the UK’s global 'soft power'."

A BBC spokesperson said: "The public think news is the most important service the BBC provides – we are more trusted and cover stories in the ways others would not. The suggestion that we are overreaching or expanding is misleading – our share of online news is falling. 

“A report just last week by Enders Analysis found that the BBC plays no role in exacerbating the challenges newspapers around the world are facing. It concluded scaling back BBC News will irreparably damage a leading UK source of impartial, quality and trusted news, whose independence is valued by users in the UK and around the world.
 
“We’re doing more than ever to work with local and regional news and will set out our plans to strengthen this new partnership shortly. Our users click on BBC News links to other websites around 8.6 million times each month.”

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