Brighton & Hove City Council. Picture: Jacob Granger
The BBC’s Local News Partnership (LNP) provides reporters, training and content to news organisations both big and small across the United Kingdom, from ITV to Britain's smallest commercial radio stations.
The LNP is comprised of three main strands: the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the Shared Data Unit and the News Hub.
Taken together, it is an effort to share local council reporting, data, and video and audio content with the wider local news industry.
One hundred and two news organisations have signed up as local news partners, accounting for more than 850 different news titles in print, broadcast and digital across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
"The BBC is working with the wider news industry to increase quality journalism, to scrutinise local democratic processes, and to support local news industry in the widest sense," said Matthew Barraclough, head of BBC Local News Partnerships.
He said that the Revival of Local Journalism conference, organised by the BBC in Salford back in 2014, was the lighting of the touch paper.
"It was a point where we got everyone interested in local news together in one room, regardless of competition or medium, to discuss the challenges that are facing us and to say ‘this is the help that we want’.
"The conference was an important moment. It started a better relationship between the BBC and local news providers and it also accelerated an improvement in the relationship among local news providers themselves,” he said.
As part of the charter renewal negotiations, Barraclough said the commitment of the local news partnerships was written into the white paper.
"The Government knew local news was important for democracy and society, the question was: ‘can the BBC exist in this space and do more?’
"After that political will was created and relationships had started to be built, BBC started to work in earnest with News Media Association (NMA)."
Getting NMA on board was pivotal, Barraclough said, as the BBC was then able to hammer out partnerships with the remaining news organisations and develop the three strands to the LNP.
Local Democracy Reporting Service
The first strand, the LDRS — dubbed the public service news agency by Barraclough — has created around 150 BBC-funded jobs for local news organisations, and produced 50,000 original stories shared amongst their partners.
The scheme is not at 100 per cent capacity, so news organisations can still sign up as partners.
This is what we do as Local Democracy Reporters. A handy cut out and keep guide to spare me any further tortured explanations! https://t.co/AIuYQmzFrT— Nick StathamLDR (@NickStathamLDR) January 23, 2019
The essential service provided by the scheme was also recognised in the Cairncross Report that called for an extension for the LDRS into what would then be called the ‘Institute for Public Interest News’.
Shared Data Unit
The second prong is a collaborative team based in Birmingham called the Shared Data Unit. It is a mixture of BBC journalists and up to 12 applicants a year from the wider local news industry.
‘Secondees’ reside in Birmingham for 12 weeks and receive training in core data journalism skills, and then put those skills into practice as content gets fed back out to the Local News Partners.
There is still just enough time to apply for the 2019/20 scheme, as the deadline for applications is 15 February.
Finally, there is the News Hub, which allows Local News Partners to access BBC video or audio content, using digital media specialists StreamAMG.
There are two ways of doing this: a customised WordPress site is used for partners to sign into, where they can upload and download any text or media on a filterable dashboard as a means of collaboration.
Alternatively, StreamAMG also functions as a newswire that redirects local democracy stories from the BBC to all of the Local News Partners.
"The BBC makes hours and hours of video every day. Once we’ve transmitted it, there is a question of ‘could anyone else use it?’ The answer is yes," said Barraclough.
"If you are a news provider, video is often quite expensive to make but it’s good because it engages people and improves your performance in search. We’re giving away our BBC content — with our blocks in it — so our videos are travelling much further and our partners are helping us reach new audiences who benefit from quality content."
Want to know more about the BBC Local News Partnerships? Matthew Barraclough will talk about why large media organisations need to care about local stories at Newsrewired on 6 March at Reuters, London