Why attacking the BBC is not the answer to the newspaper industry’s challenges

Calls for the BBC to pay local newspapers when they use their stories sound like the cries of a worried  industry lashing out at what it sees as a threat.

And indeed it faces many threats. Structural change, primarily the growth of the internet, is posing a huge challenge.

But the BBC is the least of the industry’s worries.

Adrian Jeakins, who is president of the Newspaper Society and chief executive of regional publisher Archant, told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last week that newspapers should be “appropriately rewarded” for creating content for their websites and radio stations.

According to Hold The Front Page, he told the hearing, which is looking into the future of the corporation, that the local press often found their stories repeated by the BBC without them being credited.

No kidding?

Hasn’t that always been the way in our business? Our stories get nicked not just by the BBC, but by other print rivals and the agencies that supply the nationals. And let’s face it, we’ve occasionally been guilty of the same ‘offence’ ourselves.

It is a frustrating situation but there is, thank goodness, no copyright on news.

Now I don’t know which part of the BBC in particular Mr Jeakins feels threatened by, but I know that my local station is the least of my concerns.

It is good for the weather and traffic, but it’s news service comes a poor second to ours. I am more interested in what rival free newspapers, internet start-ups, and social media marketing networks are up to.

Our local BBC station has fewer journalists than us and covers a much larger area (a weakness in itself when what people want is ‘local’ news rather than ‘regional’ news).

I’m more inclined to side with former Guardian editor Peter Preston who views BBC websites as “cursory add-ons” rather than a genuine threat.

The real threat to newspapers comes not from Broadcasting House but from Silicon Valley.

Google, Craigslist and the like have destroyed our classified revenues.

Meanwhile, locally based online ventures are springing up all the time. Some are poor and will fall by the wayside, others look like they have potential.

It is these, not the BBC, who should have us looking over our shoulder.



About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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One Response to Why attacking the BBC is not the answer to the newspaper industry’s challenges

  1. I agree; as is often the case it’s a simplistic view that all the wrongs of this industry can be laid at the door of the BBC. The reality is more complex and therefore the public need to be educated about the multiple reasons for the challenges facing our local journalists. In an age when the public demand faster and simpler headlines sadly the online giants hold the upper hand.

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