Gary Cullum believes that we deserve best practise and best value from our licence fee-funded BBC

SO the BBC wants to compete with regional and local newspapers’ online services across the UK.

Lord Hall, the former Tony Hall, BBC head honcho director-general, wants to appoint 100 journalists to seek out and report local news. As laudable as it is for an organisation to up its number of journalists by such a total, would they seek out exclusive stories across the regions, or crib and rewrite copy that has just appeared in the nation’s daily, weekly and weekend regionals and on their news websites?

Copy that has been produced by professional craftsmen and women at substantial cost to his or her publisher.

It’s not for me to argue the rights and wrongs of this approach, especially as the local press, via the News Media Association, and also via its vice-chairman Ashley Highfield, a former employee of the BBC, now chief executive of Johnston Press, maintains that Britain’s regional and local newspapers could supply a unique local service to the Beeb.

And that the news industry could embark on a new era of greater collaboration and co-operation.

Now, I am all for rivalry among media companies, and healthy competition makes for far better journalism – but that’s in a commercial world.

The BBC is funded by licence fee payers – you and me – and we should be able to demand best value for money. Is that best value to be found in the deployment of 100 more news hounds when a deal can be cut with local publishers, or should Auntie use its £3.7bn funding for commissioning new TV serials, dramas, documentaries – in fact, all the programming that made the BBC such a great public institution.

While I would love to see local newspaper news hounds given a run for their money in chasing the ambulance to the scene of the emergency, and being first to broadcast via website or social media, I honestly don’t believe this is a job for the BBC.

The corporation is an internationally renowned broadcaster and it should remain so – reporting on the bigger global stage.

As has been pointed out in a report prepared for the News Media Association by Oliver & Ohlbaum,  newsbrands – newspapers in print and digital – followed by the BBC are the two largest news providers in the UK and both are vital to the overall news ecology and to democracy.

How these two players develop and relate to each other will determine the future of the UK’s plural and diverse news provision sector. With huge pressures on both players, there has never been a more important time for collaboration and for partnership strategies.

The O&O report says that the potential benefits to the sustainability of the UK news sector overall are worth the effort of embarking on “cultural change, management will and strong oversight”.

IT may come as a surprise to many, or rather to most, but it is worth remembering and repeating (often and loud) that globally, around 2.7 billion adults today still read newspapers in print – nearly half of the world’s adult population. Let me say that again – two point seven billion adults reading printed newspapers.

Online, some 800 million people access newspaper content digitally, or nearly half of all desktop internet users. There has never been a larger audience for newspapers.

What’s more, newspapers – both print and online – produce nearly 180 billion US dollars in annual revenue, a larger sum than each of the book publishing, music or film industries.

The UK remains the world’s fifth largest newspaper market in the world in terms of revenue – worth £5.28bn, or eight billion US dollars.  These are just a few of the facts in this year’s World Press Trends, the definitive guide to the global newspaper industry published by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) and released to coincide with the World Publishing Expo in Hamburg, Germany, taking place asprinted  PJ went to press.