The BBC’s pioneering partnership with the News Media Association and local news organisations could be significantly expanded – with the number of journalists working on it increased and new services offered.
* A new cohort of public service journalists to be recruited
* Greater coverage for ‘blue light’ public services and some courts
* New body will seek additional new external funding before launch
The Local News Partnership (LNP) already funds 150 journalists to hold local councils and other public bodies to account.
So far they have produced more than 100,000 stories which can be used by local news outlets and the BBC.
Now the BBC is unveiling ambitious plans to do even more to support local journalism – with more council reporters and greater coverage of ‘blue light’ public services such as NHS Trusts – and the service extended to report on magistrates’ and sheriffs’ courts.
Until now, the scheme has been administered and funded by the BBC, with the help of the News Media Association (NMA) and local news outlets. Under the new plans a standalone, not-for-profit body will run the scheme, allowing it to seek funding from outside the BBC.
The BBC’s Director General Tony Hall announced plans to expand the LNP earlier this year. He says: “It’s never been more important to invest in local journalism. The 150 reporters we’ve funded through the Local News Partnerships have made a real difference to local communities, giving people the information they need to hold those in power to account.
“Now it’s time to go further. I want businesses and other institutions to join with us so we can get even more reporters into local communities – and give people the local journalism they deserve.”
The expansion will only go ahead after consultation with the news industry and when sufficient external funding has been found. The new services will launch in a ‘stepped approach’.
As more money is raised, more of the service will be added, beginning with a new of cohort local democracy reporters.
Ken MacQuarrie, Director, BBC Nations and Regions, says: “The Local News Partnership has been a major success. It’s been warmly welcomed by the news industry and even people within local government who have embraced the additional media scrutiny and profile it has led to.
“We have ambitious plans to do even more to support local news in the UK because we believe in local journalism. The extent of the expansion would depend on us securing external funding partners but we think there is an appreciation of the importance of local journalism and the need to support it.”
NMA chief executive David Newell says: “The Local News Partnership has produced clear benefits for local journalism, and it is right for us to now look at how it could be expanded. The NMA and local news sector look forward to working closely with the BBC as these plans for expansion progress, building on the successes of the partnership to date.”
The Local News Partnership was developed by the BBC and the NMA in conjunction with the wider news industry, to support local public interest journalism. Initially the partnership is looking at recruiting additional Local Democracy Reporters to increase the depth of council coverage.
The current 150 reporters in the Local Democracy Reporting Service report on public bodies such as councils, the NHS Trusts and police commissioners. Their roles are funded by the BBC but they are managed and employed by local news outlets.
To date, the reporters have filed more than 100,000 stories, which are made available to everyone in the partnerships including the BBC.
In a sample week, Local Democracy Reporters generated 3,500 local news stories across print, online, TV and radio.
The BBC recently announced that the Local Democracy Reporting Service would be opened up to news outlets with a BAME audience. The Local News Partnership also includes the Shared Data Unit and the News Hub.
The Shared Data Unit is made up of BBC staff and journalists seconded from partner news outlets. The reporters are given training by the BBC and help produce data-led stories.
The unit has generated nearly 800 stories for partner newsrooms. The News Hub gives local news websites access to BBC video news content. The partnership has recently been opened up to news providers aimed at ethnic minority audiences, having previously only been open to news outlets classed as local.
The expansion ambition follows the successful development of the Local News Partnerships, which now has more than 900 local news outlets involved.