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Let’s get competition back into local reporting

Can anyone doubt that that towns and cities throughout the country were better served when there was competition between rival local and regional newspapers? The journalism was more adventurous, there was a wider representation of views and a livelier local debate.

One paper’s scoop had to be followed up and that meant digging deeper into the story for more facts and alternative viewpoints. The BBC’s plan for 66 local TV stations might bring back some of that competition.

A report by Roger Laughton which came out yesterday looked at the nine-month pilot for BBC local TV in the West Midlands and supported the corporation’s plans for a network. Roy Greenslade examined the report and gave the response of the Newspaper Society.

Since the BBC’s plans were first mooted the regional press owners have campaigned against the idea which they felt would disturb their local monopolies on news. And yesterday the Newspaper Society reacted predictably to Loughton saying:

It would be a wholly unjustified use of licence fee money for the BBC to replicate local news services which are increasingly being developed by the regional press.

If the BBC were simply to “replicate local news services” the exercise would be rightly condemned. But that is not what I understand is planned. Let’s get some more competition back into local reporting: it might just increase the audiences for print, broadcast and online.

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