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National World considers BBC injunction


Leading regional publisher National World says it is considering injuncting the BBC over its plans to launch new local online services in four English cities which are already served by independent media groups.

As it slashes its arts and local radio offering, the BBC is planning to extend its digital local news reporting into Bradford, Sunderland, Wolverhampton and Peterborough – cities which have a proud tradition of respected local journalism from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Sunderland Echo, Wolverhampton Express and Star and Peterborough Telegraph.

National World – which publishes the Sunderland Echo and Peterborough Telegraph along with hundreds of other newspapers and websites – said it was also talking to the other independent regional publishers, Newsquest and Midland News Association, responsible for the news operations in Bradford and Wolverhampton to invite them to join any legal action.

The BBC’s plans will also see a redeployment of resources to daily online news for 43 local areas, with the creation of 11 investigative reporting teams across the country and around 131 additional roles across local news services, with local stories made easier to find.

Gary Shipton, deputy editor-in-chief of National World said: “It is outrageous for the BBC to decimate its arts coverage – with devastating cuts to its three English orchestras and closing down the BBC Singers choir – and its local radio reporting teams while spending the public’s hard earned licence fees on vanity projects which directly compete with respected local publishers.

“All the BBC will achieve through this nonsensical and ill-thought out anti-competitive behaviour is to put more journalists’ jobs at risk in the private sector. For that reason we are now seeking legal advice on the potential action we can take and of course we are talking to the main publishers in Bradford and Wolverhampton to see if they wish to work with us. Injuncting the BBC is one of the options we are considering.”

A BBC spokesperson responded: “Our commitment to local journalism is long-standing and over the next 12 months our goal is to modernise all of our services in England to strengthen our online provision for communities across the country. These are carefully considered plans and Ofcom have already concluded they would not harm other local online providers.”

Ofcom also published an assessment of the BBC’s online plans  in December, looking specifically at whether the BBC’s planned changes could harm other local online providers. The assessment broadly concluded the BBC’s plans would not have a significant impact on fair and effective competition, although the News Media Association did express its concerns with the reports findings at the time.


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