BBC review of online activities: a better deal for local media?

The BBC Trust has published more details of the strategic review of the corporation’s activities, which it announced in July, led by director-general Mark Thompson.

One focus point of the review will be ‘streamlining the BBC’s online services’ to ‘narrow the focus on distinctive content and help to create a more open BBC’, the Trust said in a release yesterday.

This includes considering which online services could be stopped

“The Trust recognises external concerns over scale and growth of BBC online operations. Equally, it’s an immensely popular service with audiences and an important tool for the UK economy,” said Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the Trust.

“We have no intention of diluting BBC commitment to universal access to free news online. But beyond that we want to question honestly what licence fee payers really expect to get from their licence fee and what they might be surprised to see the BBC doing in the online world.”

At the Society of Editors conference last week David Holdsworth, controller of English regions, discussed BBC Online plans to bring in RSS feeds from newspaper websites – just one example of how the corporation could be a better neighbour to local media, he said.

The Trust said Thompson’s review must take these kind of relationships into consideration and ask ‘how can the BBC work with the rest of the industry to ensure its investment creates the greatest possible value?’ This question has been a sticking point for many local media groups following the dispute over the corporation’s plans to increase its local video offering online, which were later rejected by the Trust.

Additionally, sharing or linking the BBC’s websites with other public or not-for-profit cultural and creative organisations, such as community radio services, should be looked at, the Trust recommended.

The first findings of the review will be published in early 2010 and opened to public consultation.

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