Today the BBC Trust pulled an absolutely stinking howler. With its decision to prevent the BBC from improving local journalism, the only people who are suffering are viewers and listeners.
The money, the Trust said, should instead by used to “improve existing services”. Existing services like, I dunno, local news?
The Trust also concluded that an improved local video service — which would have seen ten clips of hyperlocal news posted online every day in every region — would have a “significant negative impact on commercial providers”.
Ok. There may be a point there. If the BBC are going to be doing great local video, then why would people go to the local newspaper for video as well? After all, the BBC’s national news videos mean that people have stopped visiting Sky News, or the Guardian, or the Telegraph, or the Times, or ITV, or… you get the picture.
Competition ups everyone’s game. If local newspapers offer something unique then people will still come.
The simple truth is this: local newspapers are scared stiff. The likes of Sly Bailey, so critical of the BBC’s plans, clearly has no idea what to do in the next year. In fact, I’ll shorten that to the next six months. She’s got a newspaper group that is flapping its wings about in panic, feathers flying out in all directions.
Pay freezes and job cuts don’t solve the problem. In fact, they put you in a worse position. How will you make any local video content without any bloody staff?
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a screenshot of 4 key local news websites. Over the next few months, I’ll monitor any changes. I’ll see if the local press are rising to the challenge. I’ll stick my neck out a bit here and predict nothing will happen. The designs will stay the same. The production values of multimedia will not improve, and more job cuts will be announced.
You know, in some ways I’m glad the BBC Trust has rejected the plans. Perhaps it’s too early. This way, when local newspapers do absolutely nothing to improve local news, they won’t be able to blame the big bad BBC. It will be their own incompentence. A reluctance to get face the times and sort out their shoddy product.
Screenshots after the jump. I’ll take a look at these after Christmas. Lets see what happens.
» Read more: Regionals given a lifeline. It’s up to them to use it