Members of the regional press have slammed the BBC’s plans to launch a network of 60 ultra-local websites.
The UK Press Gazzete has revealed the BBC hope to create a raft of new sites using the latest “online localisation and mapping technology”.
In October last year the BBC dropped their plans to broadcast ultra-local TV following pressure from regional newspapers.
The problem that people in the regional press have with the BBC is that they can’t compete with them on a level playing field.
It’s no secret that when the BBC do something, they do it very well – and this is because they have the expertise and the revenue to invest.
If they were a commercial company this wouldn’t be a problem – fair play to them.
But they’re not - they are publicly funded, through the license fee, and they don’t have to take commercial issues into consideration.
This means that the BBC doesn’t have to compete with the regional press for advertising or anything like that, but unfortunately we have to compete against them.
If people are getting their fill of news from the BBC, in whatever media used, they will not need to come to us: our circulations, or web visitors, will drop - inevitably followed by our advertising revenues.
In the past one of the only advantages regional newspapers had over the BBC was that they covered their local area in far more detail.
But now it seems the BBC want to flex their considerable muscles here too.
Should they be allowed to do this?
Personally I don’t think so.
I don’t mind if any of the big guns like Sky or ITV want to turn their sights on the hyper-local side of the business - at least they will be doing it to make money.
This means they risk falling foul of all the same pitfalls and problems that the rest of us already have and will only have limited resources to throw at any project.
I think if the BBC is allowed to go ahead with their website plans it will inevitably hit local newspapers and local newspaper websites – and hit them hard.
So hard that it may even mean the end for some.
It will only be then that readers, and many people in the industry itself, understand that regional newspapers are unfortunately not a service - like the publicly funded BBC – but a business.
And any business can only exist if they are making money.
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