Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

End of BBC Local TV…is it problem solved for local newspapers?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on November 22, 2008

The Newspaper Society hailed the cancelling of BBC Local TV plans as a great victory yesterday for local newpapers who’d foreseen their ruin if the Beeb popped up in their area.

The RadioCentre, representing local commercial radio stations, called it a “sensible decision.”

Ofcom had reckoned local newspapers and radio stations could have seen their revenue fall by 4% if BBC Local had happened.

So is it problem solved? No way.

According to an article in today’s Guardian:

While newspapers have seen off the threat of the BBC’s £68m local video websites, their problems remain immense. Against a backdrop of falling advertising revenues and economic downturn, dozens of local papers have closed this year and many more are vulnerable. The BBC’s plans were a concern – the Newspaper Society said the 65 proposed sites would have competed with about 100 websites of some of the UK’s best-known papers. However, Richard Hitchcock, an analyst at Numis, said publishers were not as worried about the BBC plan as they were about the “bigger picture” of a “sustained cyclical consumer downturn on top of the major structural problems of the online migration of audiences and advertising”. Enders Analysis estimates that UK newspaper ad revenues could fall by up to 21% next year and remain in decline for the “foreseeable future”.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Dave Lee issues a challenge for the papers to up their game and match the quality of the BBC threat. Quite rightly he says the papers were just scared – really – that the BBC might be better than them.

David Dunkley Gyimah agrees – and says they must do it soon – because the next threat might not be so easy to fend off. Or, even, from the BBC.

1 in a 1000

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on January 21, 2007

“Hi is that Max?”

“Yes it is.”

“Hi Max, it’s Adam from BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. How are you?”

“….not too good considering a tree’s just crushed my car.”

That’s how not to brief a guest just before you put them on air.  I was working to the Drive Programme on BBC Cov & Warks and the weather, not for the first time, was making the headlines.

The day’s planning for the programme had been pushed aside in light of the falling trees, powercuts and general chaos caused by last weeks 99mph winds. And it was a great example of local radio reacting to a breaking news story. We were getting dozens of calls from listeners, all eager to tell us what the situation down their road was like, all interacting with the station.

It was an exciting end to an interesting few weeks seeing BBC Local Radio in action. I was regularly impressed by the ideas and creativity that came out of the daily meeting (I’ve decided an ideas meeting is a must in any newsroom) and above how in touch the station was with it’s patch.

Rather than wait for news to come in via councillors, press releases and the like, there’s a real effort to get out and react to what the listeners care about.

BBC Coventry and Warwickshire open centre in actionThe studios in Priory Place, Coventry contain an Open Centre – a new idea in local radio. It’s a wireless hub, cafe and computer classroom all in one and it tries to encourage people to come in even just for a drink. Seeing as many people don’t know where the studios of their local stations are I think this is excellent.

Most impressively, Coventry’s pioneering a citizen journalism scheme called Citizen 1000; The aim is to recruit 1,000 citizen journalists to come and report for the station – whether by phoning in with a story, doing a film review or talking about sport.

Within it’s first three weeks of launching, several CJ’s had phoned in with tip-offs and these became stories that no other rival would get.

That’s absolutely brilliant, and this symbiotic relationship between local radio and local community is something the BBC (and commercial rivals) should seize upon right away.

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Local TV on the way?

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on November 20, 2006

Interesting article in the Press Gazette this week: the Newspaper Society’s apparently criticised a report saying that the BBC’s Local TV project won’t damage the local press industry.

The BBC’s Laughton Report investigated the impact of the BBC’s uber-local TV project, piloted in the West Midlands about a year ago, a daily 10 minute programme of news focussing on small areas. It concluded there was:

“no statistically significant impact on newspaper circulation figures in the region” and that “Daily recorded 7-10 minute bulletins and on-demand news items and features are unlikely to have a significant impact on other players in local markets.”

BBC Local TV imageAs a result, the BBC is apparently planning a full roll out of 66 Local TV strands across the UK pending a Board of Governers’ decision. The Newspaper Society doesn’t agree though and is inherently threatened by the BBC’s plans.  

As indeed all newspaper hacks seem inherently threatened by anything that doesn’t use endless reams of paper and utilises that magic substance they call ‘electricity’.

As a wannabe VJ at Uni in Warwick, near Coventry, I near soiled myself when the pilot began in my area. It was for the most part successful (i.e. interesting) and was a mixed bag of crime, council news and silly stories. The production quality was at times questionable, but overall good.

I hope it rolls out next year, and I don’t think it’ll threaten local papers, just offer them stiff competition. Most local papers have a regularly updated website anyway.

But Joe, a colleague on my BJ course here at City, made quite a good point about the Local TV idea. It would seem there’s an inherent contradiction within the scheme. On the one hand, it makes news as local as it can get – daily 10 minute chunks of stuff at the end of your road; the people who tend to dig this sort of stuff are in their autumn years, and wary of new technology.

BBC Local TVOn the other hand, Local TV is the most hi-tech form of BBC journalism: a mix of online and “press the red button now”, not to mention it’s use of Video Journalism.  Who digs this? Young people. But they hate local news.

So there’s a dodgy contradiction here, which might stop the scheme creating a successful identity for itself.  But it’s a natural, inevitable conclusion in the hi-tech newsworld, and ought to please people who feel their half-hourly dose of regional TV is as local as Newsnight.

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