Thursday, November 20, 2008

Success as BBC withdraws threat to independent local news

"Why should local newspapers have to face subsidised competition from the BBC?" asks Richard Normington.

He wrote to the BBC Trust Chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, calling on the BBC Trust to reject the proposal to spend £23 million a year of license payers' money on a local news video-on-demand service.

Sir Michael Lyons

Chairman, BBC Trust

Dear Sir Michael,

I am writing to object to the BBC's plans to use £23 million of license payers' money to move into the local news video-on-demand market that is already served by private providers, in my case the Cambridge News. This is not expanding choice, it is a state provider crowding out the existing private market. I suggest that the money be returned to licence payers or used to produce quality programmes on Radio Cambridgeshire, Radio 4 or BBC1.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Normington

Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman


Sir Michael confirmed the decision to withdraw the proposal:

Our ref: 16050469/2

Dear Mr Normington

I am writing to update you on the BBC Trust’s decision regarding BBC management’s local video proposal.

Last Friday the Trust announced that we had refused permission for the proposal because we had determined that it would not improve services for the public enough to justify either the investment of licence fee funds or the negative impact on commercial media. It was clear from the Public Value Test process we have just undertaken that, although licence fee payers want better regional and local services from the BBC, BBC management’s proposal was unlikely to achieve this. We also recognised 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.

Our provisional conclusions along with the supporting documentation, including the Public Value Assessment and audience research, can be found on our website, although we would be happy to provide a paper copy if that would be helpful (

Our decision not to approve local video is now open to public consultation until 5 January at the above site should you wish to contribute. We expect to publish our final decision by 25 February.

I hope that this update is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Sir Michael Lyons

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