Credit: By Alex Liivet on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The BBC is currently running a consultation looking at ways to develop a more collaborative relationship with hyperlocal media and community bloggers.

The proposals include further expanding a linking system called Local Live, limited only to regional publications in a number of pilot areas at the moment; more access to training for community journalists; and establishing a Hyperlocal Forum set to meet twice a year.

"The BBC has been sensitive for a while to accusations that it's crowding out the community and local journalism market," said Sara Moseley, development director at Cardiff University and project lead at the Centre for Community Journalism.

There's a real gap in terms of digging down into news that's coming from very defined, small geographic areasSara Moseley, Cardiff University
"And it's been clear for some time that there's a real gap in terms of digging down into news that's coming from very defined, small geographic areas," she added in a recent Journalism.co.uk podcast.

She sees an opportunity for collaboration to address the issue at both ends. This strengthened relationship would make it easier for the BBC to tailor its stories and make them "really relevant to very local audiences".

And community journalists would be able to raise their profiles and become better known in their area, as "findability" is one of the key problems for hyperlocals, she explained. "Potentially it's a real win-win situation for both sides here."

The consultation is open until 30 September, with the BBC planning to publish an overview of the comments in November.

BBC controller for the English regions David Holdsworth told Journalism.co.uk the broadcaster doesn't have any plans to delve into hyperlocal journalism.

"We operate at a level of either a city or a county and we regard that as the limit of our ambitions. We don't think we either have the resources, or it would be appropriate to be more local than that."

The ideal relationship would be one where the BBC would help showcase stories from community bloggers, as well as putting together a register of hyperlocals by area and organising training events.

This drive to work closer with hyperlocals could help develop the sector, he said, and make it "feel a bit more grown up and a genuine part of the media landscape in this country".

Some of the ideas included in the proposal have already been operating as pilot programmes in certain regions, such as BBC Local Live newsfeeds which have been linking to regional media in areas including Birmingham and Black Country, Derby and London since 2013.

By expanding these news-streams to include more hyperlocals, the BBC could play a "fundamental role in being able to surface public service content from across grass-roots areas", explained Nesta Destination Local programme manager Kathryn Geels.

Nesta and the Carnegie Trust have been pushing for the inclusion of hyperlocals in the BBC's regional initiatives, and Geels says more traffic to hyperlocals from the broadcaster could mean more revenues from advertisers for the community sites.

There's also room to bring Local Live to the BBC's mobile app, which Geels said could be in the works soon.

"That will also sort of facilitate the process because more audiences are accessing news and information on the go, on mobile devices – that's the way that the news industry and the media industry is going," she explained.
But can this collaboration go beyond the BBC linking out to stories, and include a move by the broadcaster to allow other publications to use some of its content?

A video-sharing initiative is currently in consideration at the BBC, said Holdsworth, but there are still details that need to be ironed out before it gains more traction.

"We have, in a pretty limited way in the North East, been trying out offering [news] video to other publishers to see whether this was what they wanted, and if they got it whether they regard that as something that would be useful to them."

He explained the broadcaster needs to take into account fair trading and policy considerations to ensure it's treating all publishers equally as part of this initiative.

The pilot project is in place to assess if publishers, including hyperlocals, would be interested in using this video, and "whether that's something that is worth a permanent proposal".

Find out more about the proposals in the podcast below:

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