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Union boss accuses local newspapers of anti BBC lobbying

stanistreet Michelle Stanistreet pictured on the NUJ website

The amount of lobbying against the BBC by newspaper groups ahead of tomorrow’s green paper has reached ‘fever pitch’, according Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

Writing in today’s Media Guardian, Stanistreet pointed up the appointment of Johnston Press (JP) chief executive Ashley Highfield as one of those with ‘privileged access’ to make representations.

JP publishes regional newspapers including the Yorkshire Post and the Lancashire Evening Post among many.

And she criticised the newspaper bosses for being ‘completely disingenuous’ in pointing at the BBC’s website as the cause of their decline.

She said: “Behind the scenes, the New Media Association, which represents the owners of the newspaper industry, has been lobbying furiously against the BBC. The major newspaper groups have made their own representations through privileged access to those in power.

“So they must have been delighted when one of their own, Ashley Highfield, the Johnston Press chief executive who has asked the BBC to close local websites and work with the industry, was chosen to be on the expert panel to decide the corporation’s future.

“The truth is that when the going was good, newspaper group managements milked the profits for their shareholders and executives, made unwise acquisitions and failed to invest in journalism.

“When the recession came, advertising dried up and then failed to migrate to newspaper websites, the newspaper groups continued to award their executives fat pay cheques and payoffs and cut their staff to the bone.”

Last week, the BBC announced a further roll out of its local news partnerships pilot whic is intended to strengthen links between the BBC, hyperlocals and other established forms of local media, as well as ‘directing BBC audiences to the best stories online and ensuring the right credit is given to external news sources’.

Read Stanistreet’s full comments here.

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