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BBC bosses are urged by MPs to safeguard local radio in overhaul

BBC bosses are urged by MPs to safeguard local radio in upcoming overhaul

  • MPs say BBC plans to overhaul local radio ‘risks undermining sense of localness’
  • A report warned BBC’s digital strategy should not come at expense of listeners
  • MPs stated that the Government should establish an innovation fund for news

MPs yesterday urged the BBC to ‘reconsider’ its plans to overhaul local radio, saying it ‘risks undermining the sense of localness’ that makes it distinctive.

A report by the digital, culture, media and sport committee into the ‘sustainability of local journalism’ warned that the BBC’s ‘digital first’ strategy – prioritising online services – should not come at the expense of loyal listeners.

The BBC announced plans in October to increase programming sharing between different local radio stations.

The MPs said the plan to plough more money into online local news services could ‘risk harming commercial news publishers’ already going through tough times. The committee also said the quality and coverage of local news will ‘decline’ without ‘new support’ from Government.

The BBC has backtracked on its plans for local radio programmes after facing a backlash from staff and audiences for its plans to axe services that could also result in hundreds of job losses

Damian Green, of the DCMS committee, said: ‘The disappearance of local news providers… has ripped a hole in the heart of many communities.’

The committee said between 2009 and 2019 more than 300 local newspaper titles closed.

The report warned about the ‘damage’ a reduction in provision could ‘cause to democracy and society’. MPs said the Government should establish an innovation fund for news and make it more easy for local news publishers to have charitable status.

News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said: ‘We also share the Committee’s concerns over the BBC’s plans to expand their online local news services, which as the report notes, would only threaten commercial local news publishers who are already facing challenges to building a sustainable business model for digital news.

‘We strongly echo the report’s recommendation that the BBC reconsiders their plans.’

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