The BBC partnership with local news organisations and the news trade associations is set to be expanded with a new organisation recruiting more journalists and offering new services.
The new body will seek additional new external funding to provide guaranteed coverage for ‘blue light’ public services like NHS trusts and some magistrates’ and sheriffs’ courts.
The Local News Partnership (LNP) already funds 150 journalists to cover local councils and other public bodies, producing over 100,000 stories for local news outlets and the BBC.
Until now, the scheme has been administered and funded by the BBC and local news companies, but now a new standalone, not-for-profit body to run the scheme is being proposed to seek funding from other sources.
BBC Director General Tony Hall said: “It’s never been more important to invest in local journalism. The 150 reporters we’ve funded through the Local News Partnerships have made a real difference to local communities, giving people the information they need to hold those in power to account.
“Now it’s time to go further. I want businesses and other institutions to join with us so we can get even more reporters into local communities, and give people the local journalism they deserve.”
A news industry consultation will now take place, but the expansion can only proceed when sufficient external funding has been found, with more services added as and when resources are secured.
Ken MacQuarrie, Director, BBC Nations and Regions, said: “The Local News Partnership has been a major success. It’s been warmly welcomed by the news industry and even people within local government who have embraced the additional media scrutiny and profile it has led to.
“We have ambitious plans to do even more to support local news in the UK because we believe in local journalism. The extent of the expansion would depend on us securing external funding partners but we think there is an appreciation of the importance of local journalism and the need to support it.”
NMA chief executive David Newell said: “The Local News Partnership has produced clear benefits for local journalism, and it is right for us to now look at how it could be expanded. The NMA and local news sector look forward to working closely with the BBC as these plans for expansion progress, building on the successes of the partnership to date.”
The Local News Partnership was developed by the BBC and the NMA in conjunction with the wider news industry, to support local public interest journalism. Initially the partnership is looking at recruiting additional Local Democracy Reporters to increase the depth of council coverage.
SNS director John McLellan added: “The coverage of many Scottish local authorities has been enhanced by the scheme, although coverage across the country has been inconsistent and we look forward to the new expanded scheme addressing the challenges.”