10 million people a week get council news from local democracy reporters — BBC boss

Up to 10 million people are reading, watching to hearing news about local councils thanks to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the director-general of the BBC told reporters.

Tim Davie told a conference attended by many of the 165 local democracy reporters that since 2017, more than 250,000 stories have been produced as part of the scheme, which is funded by the BBC and sees journalists employed by local publishers around the country.

Stories are available to publishers who meet criteria set out by the BBC.

In a wide-ranging speech, which can be read in full here, Mr Davie praised LDRs for their commitment, talked about the difference they were making, and addressed the importance of the scheme to the BBC.

Mr Davie told the conference: “It’s less than four years since the very first Local Democracy Reporter filed her first story for the Kent Messenger Group.

“Since then, you have created nearly a quarter of a million stories.

“There are now 165 Local Democracy Reporter posts across the UK.

“And we reckon that between 8 and 10 million people now read, watch, or hear your stories each week.

“It’s even become a template for other countries to follow.

“New Zealand now has 20 Local Democracy Reporters… Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative employs around 150.

“Just this week, MPs were paying tribute to the scheme once again in Westminster. It’s a major success story. And we all know why it’s so important.”

He added: “when we talk about the 250,000 stories that you have written in that time, we’re talking about important stories… Stories that really matter in people’s day-to-day lives… Stories that might not otherwise have been told.”

In the summer, an extra 15 roles were added to the existing 150 roles to ensure greater coverage of second-tier (borough) councils as part of a re-tendering process which saw dozens of reporters change employers, and several new organisations become part of the scheme for the first time.

Further expansion of the scheme is a constant talking point within the industry. Mr Davie added: “I have always believed that the BBC should find ways to support a healthy local media ecology.

“I know that it’s so often what communities rely on most.

“But it’s important to remind ourselves of the reason why the BBC is in a position to offer the support we do.

“It’s because of the way we are funded, by everyone, through the Licence Fee.

“The BBC staff here will be sick of hearing it, but it’s absolutely been my mantra since starting as DG: the BBC must be totally focused on offering great value to everyone — whoever and wherever they are.

“And a big part of that is helping to uphold local democracy, and protect the interests of local communities right across the UK.

“It’s also because of the Licence Fee that we have been able to commit to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in the long term — even in a period when we have faced our own serious financial pressures.

“Because we have the certainty of that funding model in place until the end of our current Royal Charter, we can pass that certainty on — with a commitment to back this scheme through to 2027.”

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