THE News Media Association (NMA) has said that the Government’s consultation on the BBC Charter Review  is a good starting point for looking at how the BBC’s activities impact upon independent commercial media.

Published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 16 July, the Green Paper says that the Government will look at whether its provision of “extensive free online content”… “distorts audience share in a way that undermines commercial business models”.

In his statement to the House of Commons, culture secretary John Whittingdale identified four key areas:

  • mission, purpose and values
  • scale and scope
  • funding
  • governance.

The consultation, to which the NMA will be responding, says: “The BBC can have both a positive and a negative impact on the activities of its competitors. It has arguably helped the development of the sector by encouraging high standards and through investment in independent production and the infrastructure of media distribution.

“However, others make the case that the level of public funding gives the BBC an unfair advantage and distorts audience share in a way that undermines commercial business models.

‘The BBC could have an impact on efforts by local news groups to develop compelling services’

“Local newspapers have found their business model eroded over recent years as new technologies, changes to consumer behaviour, loss of advertising and other market pressures have created significant challenges. The BBC does not provide services at as granular a level as local providers but could, in providing a wide range of content online as well as on radio and TV, have an impact on efforts by local news groups to develop compelling online and hyper-local services.

“The BBC’s ability to cross-promote its own services has an impact on the wider market… Given other services are not able to advertise their content on the BBC there is a case for arguing that the nature and extent of this cross-promotion needs to be considered.”

‘Local papers can be a genuine partner to the BBC’

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield has been appointed to an eight-person panel of media experts to advise the Government on the BBC Charter renewal process. Responding to the consultation today, Mr Highfield said: “The BBC is rightly regarded as a national treasure envied around the world. The Charter Review is an opportunity to make sure it retains that position.

“It is also a chance to look in detail at the impact it has on other areas including local newspapers.

“Local papers can be a genuine partner to the BBC sharing content to our mutual benefit. It is local papers that are best placed to reach local audiences. A symbiotic relationship between us would help the BBC fulfil its charter objective ‘to truly serve and reflect the nations, regions and communities that make up the UK’.”

The full NMA story is available here