BBC to fund new re­porters

THEY WILL COVER LO­CAL DEMOC­RACY

The Chronicle - - News -

THE re­gion is set to ben­e­fit from a new team of ‘lo­cal democ­racy re­porters’ paid for by the BBC.

Two of the staff will be al­lo­cated to ncj­Me­dia Ltd, pub­lish­ers of the Chron­i­cle, Jour­nal and Sun­day Sun, to re­port on coun­cil and pub­lic meet­ings.

The ini­tia­tive is part of the BBC’s Lo­cal News Part­ner­ships which awarded con­tracts to em­ploy an ini­tial 144 full-time and two part-time Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porters to 58 news or­gan­i­sa­tions in Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales fol­low­ing a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process.

Those news or­gan­i­sa­tions – rang­ing from a ra­dio sta­tion to on­line me­dia com­pa­nies and es­tab­lished re­gional news­pa­per groups – will now re­ceive fund­ing from the BBC to cover em­ploy­ment costs of the re­porters.

Once re­cruited, sto­ries writ­ten by the democ­racy re­porters will be shared with more than 700 me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions that have signed up to be part of the Lo­cal News Part­ner­ships scheme.

David Holdsworth, Con­troller of BBC English Re­gions, said: “This is a ma­jor ad­vance in the part­ner­ship which will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the re­port­ing on coun­cils and pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, lead­ing to greater pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity for our lo­cal politi­cians.”

As part of its Char­ter com­mit­ment, the BBC is in­vest­ing up to £8mil­lion an­nu­ally in the Lo­cal News Part­ner­ships dur­ing the next nine years to the end of the Char­ter in 2026.

The land­mark part­ner­ship be­tween the BBC and the News Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion also in­cludes a Shared Data Unit, based at BBC Birm­ing­ham, and a fa­cil­ity al­low­ing lo­cal news providers ac­cess to rel­e­vant re­gional BBC video and au­dio con­tent.

The Shared Data Unit will utilise BBC teams and sec­onded jour­nal­ists from the wider in­dus­try to de­velop data jour­nal­ism ex­per­tise. The first re­gional jour­nal­ists to be sec­onded started on Novem­ber 20.

Ash­ley High­field, chair of the News Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “The ground­break­ing Lo­cal News Part­ner­ship be­tween the NMA and the BBC is now be­com­ing a re­al­ity which will ben­e­fit the BBC, lo­cal me­dia and, most im­por­tantly, lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“The ini­tia­tive has moved the whole re­la­tion­ship be­tween the BBC and the lo­cal me­dia sec­tor from con­fronta­tion to col­lab­o­ra­tion, and key ben­e­fits will in­clude 150 new jour­nal­ists on the ground hold­ing pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions to ac­count on be­half of their read­ers.

“Man­aged by lo­cal me­dia and funded by BBC, the Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porters are just a part of a slew of col­lab­o­ra­tive ini­tia­tives that will see lo­cal me­dia get ac­cess to BBC’s lo­cal video and data jour­nal­ism.”

To be awarded the democ­racy re­porter con­tracts, the 58 suc­cess­ful news or­gan­i­sa­tions had to pass strin­gent cri­te­ria which in­cluded fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and a strong track record of rel­e­vant jour­nal­ism in the area they were ap­ply­ing to cover.

The award de­ci­sions were made by se­nior ed­i­to­rial BBC figures across the English re­gions, Wales and Scot­land.

The next step will be for the or­gan­i­sa­tions to start re­cruit­ing, with a view to be­com­ing op­er­a­tional in com­ing months.

Pic­tures in the Ncj­me­dia dig­i­tal news­room

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