Regional newspapers are being denied the vital link

Regional newspapers were among the most vocal critics of the BBC’s policy of investing heavily in the development of its web sites with no apparent concern about its impact on other commercial news services.

The publication of the report into the corporation’s strategy earlier this summer offered some hope. It said that BBC’s remit need to be redefined to make sure it was not skewing the marketplace, and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell set an October deadline. The corporation promised “an immediate dialogue” with a view to setting up closer collaboration with other news providers.

So with October upon us, are we seeing a new age of cooperation? Up to a point. The BBC Newstracker system has made impressive strides in providing links to other national news providers alongside BBC stories on its news web site.

So a story on Kilroy, for instance, showed links to The Sun, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian Unlimited and Sky News.

The regionals, however, may not feel so happy. They had been particularly concerned that the BBC’s Where I Live sites were directly affecting their own online efforts – without the commercial pressures. Yet despite the dawn of Newstracker there appear few, if any, links to regional newspaper sites from their BBC equivalents.

So coverage of the gunning down of a teenage girl in Nottingham had a link to the county’s police force site, but not to the Nottingham Evening Post- which was majoring on the story. Similarly in sport, the resignation of Leicester City boss Micky Adams linked to the club’s site, but not to the Leicester Mercury. And there was no link to the Manchester Evening News about the story of a sex attacker who had struck more than a dozen times in the city. These, and other papers around the regions, will want to see an improvement.

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