BBC Trust rejects Beeb’s local video services plan

The BBC Trust has refused permission for the BBC to introduce its own local video service to cover local events in 60 parts of the UK, arguing that it wouldn’t be beneficial enough for the public and that it would have a “negative impact on commercial media”.

Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, said: “It is clear from the evidence that, although licence fee payers want better regional and local services from the BBC, this proposal is unlikely to achieve what they want.

“We also recognise the negative impact that the local video proposition could have on commercial media services which are valued by the public and are already under pressure.

“We believe the BBC’s priority should be improving the quality of existing services. The public wants better quality regional television news programmes and more programmes of all kinds produced in and reflecting their areas. We would expect BBC management to consider carefully the conclusions of this public value test before returning to us with new proposals.

“Our decision today to refuse permission for local video means that local newspapers and other commercial media can invest in their online services in the knowledge that the BBC does not intend to make this new intervention in the market.” (Thought to be honest, looking at the kind of funding that goes into innovation at local papers we’re not anticipating a rush by commercial media to fill the gap for local video services).

In May 2008 BBC management submitted proposals to the Trust to introduce an additional local video service, covering news, sport and weather, on enhanced BBC Local websites in 60 areas across the UK with an additional five Welsh language services. The proposed service was to have around 400 staff and a total budget of £68 million covering a four-year period from launch.

After examining the scheme the BBC Trust decided that a broadband-only local video proposal would not extend the BBC’s reach to those audiences it is not serving very well.

“Some people in low income groups or living in remote areas may not have access to broadband,” a statement from the trust argued. “Younger audiences want a local online service which includes a wider range of commercial content, such as cinema listings, which the BBC does not provide.

“Those aged between 34 and 45 – a target audience for local video – are more likely to be settled in an area and interested in news about local schools and hospitals. But typically they have less time to search for content on the web and, facing competing demands for internet access from children, they turn to TV, radio and newspapers instead. Older people already consume BBC local news and their preference is an improvement in quality of BBC regional news programmes.”

A market impact assessment, conducted by Ofcom, found that the impact of these plans would most likely be negative, “with newspaper publishers among those most affected”.

The Trust’s decision not to approve local video is now open to public consultation until January 5 – get involved here.

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