Local newspapers are being harmed by the BBC’s online operation, Theresa May told the Society of Editors conference today.

In a keynote speech at the conference in London, the Home Secretary said that in providing local news online, the BBC had prevented other operators from entering the market.

Home Secretary Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May

She added that she had met with the Maidenhead Advertiser, her local newspaper, to discuss the issue.

She said: “Local newspapers are having a particularly hard time and I think that is at least partly down to the BBC’s dominance.

“If the BBC can provide all the locally-significant news, what reason is left for local people to buy a newspaper? That’s as dangerous for local politics as it is for local journalism.

“The BBC has to think carefully about its presence locally and the impact that has on local democracy.”

However, asked what the government intended to do about the situation, she added: “If you think the government is about to legislate we are not.

“The challenge is achieving a change in behaviour without banning particular outlets from operating in particular markets.”