BBC regional – it’s all take and no give

July 3, 2009

There is a clear and strong need for the excellent national news the BBC provides. It’s indepth and more importantly it strives for neutrality. It’s excellent value for money.

But in my view, it’s regional coverage is anything but good value.

Far too often the BBC regional sites simply take stories from local newspapers, cut them right down and then pass them off as its own work. How is that a public service exactly? At best it’s a news aggregator of a county – at worse it’s taking audience away from other local news websites, many of which have more in depth and detailed stories.

Now I’m the first to admit that many regional paper websites are poor, some extremely so. But most aren’t as poor as the BBC’s.
 They are poor because they offers less news, less in-depth news, and more boring versions of stories.

Take BBC Cambridgeshire today – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/default.stm (this page may have changed by the time you’re reading this).
There are five stories on there, three of which are four line crime nibs. These have probably either come from police press releases or a phone call to the press office. Between them they would have taken ten minutes to write (and that’s being generous).

One of the stories is a decent enough local business story with a short video clip.

And the fifth is a blatant example of a newspaper story being ripped off.

The headline reads: “Historian ‘posed as a war hero’.” And underneath “A Cambridge-based military historian who posed as a war hero has been exposed as a fantasist, BBC Look East reveals.”

But further examination of the story and it’s not a Look East revelation at all – it’s a Cambridge News story (or rather Cambridge Evening News as the BBC wrongly refers to it). Worse, the story actually appeared in the daily paper last week.

Now it’s bad enough taking credit for ‘revealing’ a story already in the public domain, but to make it worse, the BBC has refused to share a video clip of an old interview with the ‘war hero’ with the paper.

So like the bully in the sandpit, it’s ok for the Beeb to steal from everyone else and pass work off as its own, but it wont share its own toys.

So I have to say, perhaps Alastair Stewart has a point. Let’s take a proper look at the many parts of the BBC and see if they really are all necessary. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jul/03/itn-alastair-stewart-bbc-beeching

My only concern is what happens when more regional papers go to the wall? If all we’ve got to fill the gap is the BBC regional then regional news is stuffed.

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Aunty needs to look at herself

May 20, 2009

It’s good to see the BBC licence fee being debated again.

 This time it’s the Tories – no doubt keen to deflect some attention away from their own expense claims – suggesting that efficiencies can be made and that the fee be frozen.

Before I go on, I’ll admit to not being the BBC’s biggest fan. I believe it is too big, often goes too far in stepping on the toes of the independent media, and they once turned me down for a job (to be fair I did call one of the interviewers an elitist, posh school cunt).

More importantly, the BBC as an organisation, like our MPs, has taken the taxpayer for granted.

I do accept and strongly believe that parts of the BBC are very important and need protection. It’s news coverage is vital. Its original programming has clearly raised and kept the standards of our television high.

However, there are many other parts of the corporation which need to be trimmed.

I’d put money on there being a few expense scandals lurking in Aunty’s murky corridors.

Some of those we know already know about seem massively excessive to me.
* £33k a day on taxis.
* £120k on a Christmas party for 2,500 staff.
* £45k on a launch party for Merlin.

Then there are the salaries of its ‘stars’. Would you rather spend £2m a year for Jonathan Ross or support 200 well paid journalists? Ross may attract decent audience figures, but his shows could (and probably would have been) easily be provided by another channels without cost to the tax payer.

Earlier this month we had the startling revelation that news reader Carrie Grace earns £92,000 a year for reading out loud. Ok, she’s an award-winning interviewer (although she handled that expenses one appallingly), but I don’t think it’s a stretch for the Beeb to find some equally talented for half that wage.
Afterall, there are (or were) thousands of talented journalists out there, including huge numbers working for less than £25k or even £20k in the regional press.

The digital channels – do we really need to spend so much on so many when the audience share is so low?

Do we really need regional news websites which steal most of its content from the regional press before cutting them down to a very superficial summary?

And then my real pet hate – the regional BBC radio stations. They offer very similar products to what’s already available commercially. How is it a pubic service to repeat what is already being provided by a non-state funded company?
All they do is take business away from non-state funded companies and deny local firms a platform to advertise.

So particularly in these trying times – the Beeb needs to take a long hard look at how it is spending its money.

But the bits of the BBC which provide genuine public service – in particular its journalism – need protection.

A free press/media is vital to a successful democracy, and it’s incredibly important to have news and issues debated by news organisations with differing political slants. Where we’re lucky in this country is that in the BBC, we have a service which reflects the news agenda from a neutral perspective very well.
It tries incredibly hard to present the facts and various points of views without taking sides and letting the reader make up its own mind, free from the bias of owners or market forces.

So before any cuts are made of the licence fee, the money it spends on its (national) news coverage needs to be secured.