The BBC used to give a link to stories in local papers on their website – and being in the North East I often look at the North East, Orkney & Shetland part of the site – now they’ve changed things a bit recently and moved to a new format that presents six headlines under the banner From other local news sites. Given the lack of diversity in printed media ownership in the area, we can’t really expect too much here but when we are told by the BBC about a supposedly wonderful 3rd party service that generates the stories for this section, I was expecting a bit more than what’s been presented today.
This evening we had :
Now, the BBC tell us :
“We have selected them on the basis that they produce an RSS feed of news stories available through Moreover, that the stories are originated and not simply a rehash of agency stories, that they are general news sites, not campaigning or single issue sites, that the feed does not include adverts, and finally that they have a certain scale across your city, county or region.“
Lets consider a couple of these points.
BBC Claim : “the stories are originated and not simply a rehash of agency stories”
Well when I had a read, two of the stories featured looked remarkably similar despite having different headlines on the Local News section :
Mearns Leader : Emergency meeting over oil tax rise
Deeside Piper and Advertiser : Oil profits tax ‘could cost jobs’
This hardly lives up to the “that the stories are originated and not simply a rehash of agency stories” assertion does it? These aren’t even a rehash – they are the same story presented twice as different news items by the BBC (or perhaps more correctly presented to the BBC as different items by a 3rd party service) .
Wait, Haud the front page ! – since I started typing this a new story has leapt into the BBC selection :
Eager to find out if there’s been some new developments I had a look at the story
Inverurie Herald : Statoil halts project over tax rise
… yes, you’ve guessed it, this title is running exactly the same story as its two Johnson Press stablemates mentioned previously.
Oh FFS ! – and I’m not talking Fair Fuel Stabiliser here – you get the picture. Now I’m not picking on those titles or their publisher here – they are going to have to share stories – I do expect a lot more quality control from the BBC. This isn’t even a case of spotting churnalism, its just simple mechanical checking of content before passing it off as a new story. Now the actual titles of the 3 stories highlighted above are exactly the same on their individual websites but each has a different headline on the BBC local news section – would it be too far fetched to ponder if this may be a cunning ploy on behalf of advertisers to get the same story in there multiple times and thus get more exposure for their adverts?
Adverts ? Adverts on the BBC ? I hear you howl … which leads us neatly on to the next BBC Claim that : “the feed does not contain adverts”
I beg to differ on this point.
FACT : Every story featured this evening features prominent adverts.
The internet offers great potential to revolutionise local news coverage but sadly on this occasion I’m moved to comment that I find this effort form the BBC very disappointing.