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NMA criticises BBC’s local expansion

The News Media Association has responded to this week’s reported growth in the audience for BBC Local.

NMA criticises BBC’s local expansion
Owen Meredith: “The BBC is using the might of the licence fee to draw audiences away from commercial local news providers.”

In the BBC’s announcement, the organisation said: “In the period July-Sept 2023, an average 14.8m unique browsers each week accessed BBC Local stories in England – up 2.6m on the same period last year (21%), and 1.4m(10%) on the previous quarter.

“The figures also show that an additional 745,000 unique browsers each day are accessing local stories on the BBC News site/app each day, up 23% compared to the same period last year (13% quarter-on-quarter).”

In response, News Media Association Chief Executive Owen Meredith said: “The rise in online audiences for BBC Local cynically trumpeted by the BBC this week is very worrying evidence of the effect of the BBC's wrong-headed strategy of moving into an area already well served by commercial local providers.

“This shows audiences continue to be hungry for local news online, but the BBC is using the might of the licence fee to draw audiences away from commercial local news providers, depriving them of readers and the revenue to continue investment in trusted, professional, plural journalism, all at the expense of much-loved local radio services. The BBC Royal Charter is supposed to stop the BBC from impacting the commercial market in this way, Ofcom must take another look at this and put the brakes on the BBC’s expansionism.

“The long-term effect of this aggressive expansion into local news will be to eradicate plurality in the local news market, leaving us with the BBC as the only source of local news. We cannot allow that to happen.”

Ian Carter, Iliffe Media editorial director, responded to the BBC’s announcement on Twitter / X: “There's something quite nauseating seeing the BBC boast about the fairly modest increase in its regional digital audience, knowing it's been achieved by ripping the guts out of its distinctive local radio output.”

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