The BBC has, this morning, announced plans to significantly expand its partnership with the News Media Association and local news organisations to support local journalism.
Under the plans, the BBC’s partnerships, including the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which the Bedford Independent is a member of, would seek to cover public services such as NHS Trusts, magistrates’ and sheriffs’ courts.
A new cohort of public service journalists would also be recruited.
Managing Editor at the Bedford Independent, Paul Hutchinson, welcomed the news: “The Bedford Independent has always sought to hold public authorities to account itself but networks like this have really helped boost what we’re able to do.
“It’s great to see the demise of local news, mostly brought about by poor decisions by large publishers, being taken seriously so issues on our doorstep are not ignored.
“Increasing the network of professional journalists, across multiple, modern, regulated media sources, means we are all working together for the greater good of local journalism.”
The Local News Partnership (LNP) already funds 150 journalists reporting on local councils and other public bodies.
So far they have produced more than 100,000 stories which are used by local news outlets and the BBC.
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.
The new plans would create a new not-for-profit body to run the scheme, allowing it to seek funding from outside the BBC.
“It’s never been more important to invest in local journalism,” said Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall.
“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 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.
Ken MacQuarrie, Director, BBC Nations and Regions, added: “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.”
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.
The Local News Partnerships, has more than 900 local news outlets involved, including the Bedford Independent.
Across the areas they cover, reporters have filed more than 100,000 stories, which are made available to everyone in the partnerships including the BBC.