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BBC LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER SHAM AS CONTRACTS HANDED TO MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS PUBLISHER
 

Star date: 11th December 2017

£8 MILLION BBC NEWS PARTNERSHIP SEES MAINSTREAM COMMERCIAL MEDIA BENEFIT

"This is a major advance...leading to greater public accountability for our local politicians" BBC

The BBC has announced that its new massively funded Local Democracy Reporter scheme is set to benefit the profit-driven mainstream media, with Manchester Evening News publisher, Trinity Mirror, getting six funded reporters in Greater Manchester.

The Salford Star pulled out of the process months ago, with the board telling the BBC "To us it seemed administratively complex and there were doubts about reporter freedom".

Full details here...


BBC Bias protest Media City Salford BBC Bias protest Media City Salford
click image to enlarge

Last Friday, the BBC announced that 58 contracts had been awarded almost exclusively to profit driven commercial media organisations, to fund 144 journalists as part of its drive for what it calls 'Local Democracy Reporters'.

Within the scheme, Manchester Evening News publisher, Trinity Mirror, is getting six funded reporters in Greater Manchester.

"This is a major advance in the partnership which will significantly improve the reporting on councils and public institutions, leading to greater public accountability for our local politicians" said David Holdsworth, Controller of BBC English Regions.

The Local News Partnerships scheme, costing the BBC £8million a year, will also include a Shared Data Unit to allow authorised news providers access to content.

It all sounds lovely except that small local community media organisations that have been struggling for years trying to 'report on councils and public institutions, leading to greater public accountability', on shoestring budgets, didn't stand a chance of getting a sniff at the funding.

Stringent qualifying criteria included that more than one salaried journalist had to have been employed; that the organisation had to have the ability to produce content in 'text, video, images and audio'; be subject to oversight by a 'regulator or self-regulator' such as...Ipso, IMPRESS or OFCOM'; had to have the 'ability to handle payroll, overheads, holiday cover, sick leave, etc'; had to 'ensure submitted material has been checked by another trained journalist'; and had to have the 'capacity to manage performance'... 'They will be expected to publish a weekly advanced planning note' etc etc...

There is no way that community media could meet these criteria, particularly having more than one journalist on the payroll Ė if this was the case these organisations wouldn't need BBC money!

What good community media does is tick all the other boxes that the BBC displayed, such as, 'targets an audience typically located in a specific geographical area'; 'generates and distributes its own news content directly to local or regional audiences'; 'can demonstrate journalistic output covering a broad range of topical subjects'; 'can demonstrate coverage of all aspects of public institutions, organisations and civic life, including councils and public bodies'...

But the bureaucratic hoops to jump through were just too high. And so it's left to the profit-driven commercial companies to champion what the BBC calls 'greater public accountability' Ė which begs the question as to why they aren't doing it now...

...Is it lack of 'democracy reporters'? Or is it a lack of will, given close ties with advertisers (see huge property supplements in the MEN), obsession with clickbait headlines and features, and the unhealthy close relationship with local councils?

When the BBC first announced it was to fund 'local democracy reporters' the board of the Salford Star thought it might be a good thing, given the organisations track record of eleven years of reporting on 'local democracy', or lack of it.

By the time the board had got their heads around what the scheme actually was, the amount of work involved in just applying for the funding, and the total control that the BBC would have over the contract, the Salford Star pulled out of the process, telling the BBC "To us it seemed administratively complex and there were doubts about reporter freedom...".

Now, the BBC has awarded 58 contracts funding 144 'democracy reporters', almost exclusively from the profit-driven mainstream, including 24 contracts to Trinity Mirror for 63 reporters within its group. Others to benefit are Newsquest (17 contracts, 37 reporters), Johnston Press (8 contracts, 30.5 reporters) and DC Thomson (2 contracts, 4 reporters). Even that well known George Osborne vehicle, the London Evening Standard got a contract for one 'local democracy reporter'.*

"This so-called scheme for 'Local Democracy Reporters' looks to us like a total sham" says Salford Star editor Stephen Kingston "The news groups that have benefited from BBC funding have been sacking journalists for years in the relentless pursuit of more profit.

"The reason they do not hold public bodies properly to account, or report consistently on council meetings, is that, firstly they haven't got enough journalists because they've sacked them all; secondly because these stories are neither easy to research, nor do they usually farm thousands of readers for advertisers; and thirdly, because it's less time consuming cutting and pasting press releases from the police, councils or wherever Ė or nicking Salford Star stories!" he adds.

"This is BBC public money subsidising lazy, unscrupulous publishers" he concludes "Unfortunately, the BBC just hasn't got the balls to support non-profit media that has no vested interests, other than giving the community a voice and holding authority to account Ė issues that the mainstream media gave up prioritising years ago. If the community wants a proper media, as always, we're going to have to continue trying to do it ourselves."


To help finance good independent and alternative media see The Media Fund website, which, this week, is launching a 'funding revolution' Ė click here


* BBC Contracts and Reporters by Company...

Trinity Mirror - 24 contracts, 63 reporters
Newsquest - 17 contracts, 37 reporters
Johnston Press - 8 contracts, 30.5 reporters
DC Thomson - 2 contracts, 4 reporters
KM Media Group - 1 contract, 2 reporters
Stonebow Media (The Lincolnshire Reporter) - 1 contract, 2 reporters
Archant Community Media - 1 contract, 2 reporters
Citizen News and Media (The Hackney Citizen) - 1 contract, 1 reporter
London Evening Standard - 1 contract, 1 reporter
Manx Radio - 1 contract, 1 reporter
Shetland News - 1 contract, 0.5 reporters

Bob wrote
at 07:38:43 on 13 December 2017
Must admit I got It wrong there. I was over in Yorkshire at the time when I first heard the report of this terrible event on the tv. I did not recognise the address so I looked at the online reports from the press. The first report I saw of this , and other subsequent online reports all showed the address as being Jackson street in Kearsley, just outside Salfords boarders. I got it wrong, it could be that inside of all of us find it so hard to think that such a bad thing could happen in our city, and to acknowledge the fact. So sad.

white wrote
at 18:56:32 on 12 December 2017
Itís a pity that Bobís attack on the BBC could not be done with the accuracy he wishes on them. The events, the arson attack, did not happen in Kearsley, it happened in Walkden. Walkden does happen to be part of Salford, which was accurately reported. Bolton was not involved and any mention of it is a total irrelevancy. So Bob, get YOUR facts right before rushing to comment.

wrote
at 18:56:19 on 12 December 2017
It looks like Bob doesn't know the difference between Walkden where the attack happened and Kearsley where it didn't.

Michael James Felse wrote
at 09:31:26 on 12 December 2017
I look forward to hearing more about this BBC scheme. My first thought is are they moving towards breaking up the current high paid news teams, are they preparing to privatise the service for a stock float or are they setting the scene for commercialisaton with advertising income to turn the £8million investment into massive revenue steam such as seen by facebook. My what will be next?

Steve wrote
at 06:37:33 on 12 December 2017
The scheme looks like a complete nightmare and will be a poisoned chalice for anyone getting involved. You did the right thing steering clear of it. It will be interesting to see if the content produced by these reporters will be scrutinised for impartiality and political neutrality using guidelines set out in the BBC Charter and Agreement and if so how it will be done and by whom and what will happen if they donít. The only reason it is happening is because the Tories want to open up the license fee to the private sector.

Bob wrote
at 06:36:39 on 12 December 2017
I did at one time think that the BBC were the only major organisation that knew the difference between Manchester and Salford. Perhaps it still does, but it does not know the difference between Salford and Kearsley. The terrible tragic events of the arson attack in Kearsley yesterday have shown the need for accurate local reporting. It has been repeatedly on the news today, describing these events as being in Salford, when in effect they happened in Bolton. The BBC should get its facts right.

wrote
at 06:35:14 on 12 December 2017
There is some outstanding journalism in the MEN, Jen Williams doesnít pull any punches with her investigative reporting, case in point being her piece on North Manchester Hospital. Hope the money funds a few more like her.

Alice wrote
at 18:18:14 on 11 December 2017
The Salford Star has worked with tenacity and a detailed investigatory approach to report on 'the antics' of the local council. None of the profit operating papers have reported with the same honesty and detail. Frequently these papers have pinched reports from the Salford Star. The Salford Star, like other 'not for profit papers' , works on a shoe string with volunteers giving time and support. They exist by fund raising and generous donations from the community. The Editor of the Salford Star is a highly qualified and experience journalist, working on a very low income but committed to producing 'the truth.' Unfortunately the BBC made their application rules so complexed it ruled out such quality journalism.

Louise wrote
at 14:34:42 on 11 December 2017
Btw, if anyone's interested in one of those local democracy reporter jobs, Trinity Mirror's advertised them, the closing date's 28 December: http://jobsearch.trinitymirror.com/jobs/job/Local-Democracy-Reporter/5942

Gareth L wrote
at 14:16:09 on 11 December 2017
It was a total sham, with contradictory info from the Beeb and with enough red tape to make the Soviet Union seem bureaucracy free! It was quite clear that only larger media organisations could tick the boxes they were looking for and not community based ones such as the Salford Star or Manchester Meteor.

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