BBC ‘would better serve UK by working with – not against – commercial news organisations,’ finds report

Ashley Highfield.
Ashley Highfield.
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The BBC would better serve its audiences by working with publishers and online news organisations rather than competing with them, according to a new report.

The News Media Association (NMA) has set out a vision for a “vibrant” and “durable” news industry in the UK as part of work done leading up to the BBC’s charter renewal.

The vision is based on a 69-page report from Oliver & Ohlbaum, looking at the changing market of local, national and international news services and the role the BBC plays in the changing market.

The NMA represents almost all major newspaper publishers in the UK. It’s vice-chairman Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press, which owns the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail as well as scores of other news titles across the country.

Mr Highfield said: “The BBC repeatedly seeks to portray itself as a willing partner but all too often fails to deliver.

“The O&O report outlines a framework for cooperation through content-sharing targets and effective governance to enable the BBC to focus on what it is good at and make a positive contribution to a diverse UK media industry.”

He added: “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.”

Drawing from the report, which is published today, the NMA is calling on the Government to implement 10 changes to how the BBC is run and works with other organisations. It wants:

•●Guiding principles which set out how the BBC should work with commercial news organisations

•The BBC’s news operations to have an emphasis on news partnerships, joint working and sharing content.

•Clear targets, timetables and accountability for working with other organisations.

•Specific controls around the scope of BBC news online.

•A commitment to source news content from existing news providers rather than replicating their coverage.

•Tighter definitions on what BBC online news services do.

•A clearer process by which a market impact assessment can be triggered to review pre-existing and future initiatives.

•An extended BBC commitment to third-party content sourcing to include news

•Much greater transparency around the BBC’s use of its licence fee-funded network of overseas journalists to underpin the BBC’s commercial international services, and whether this practice is consistent with the principles of fair competition.

•A system of accountability that enshrines specific roles and responsibilities for “meaningful, commercially impactful collaboration” between the BBC and UK news providers.