You have probably reached this page by click on a byline credit on a story – the of this page is to explain what a BBC Local Democracy Reporter (LDR) is and how it fits in with what we do.
We have reported on the introduction of the £8m Local Democracy Reporter scheme in articles such as “Owners of Leader and Daily Post titles to get 100 new staff funded by BBC Licence Fee payers“ and “BBC Licence Fee Payers To Subsidise Local Media Retreat“, from the viewpoint of a tiny start up covering things that well funded entities are choosing not to. The example we often cite is the choice of one publisher to ‘live blog’ a Coca Cola truck being on Queens Square all day and evening, but having no resources to cover council meetings, or the local EU Referendum count not being covered by another.
With the opt out of local democracy coverage the BBC are spending several million pounds to hire reporters to do that job, with the bill picked up by the BBC, but existing media companies ‘running’ the contracts.
The output from the reporters will be shared to all outlets who have successfully applied to the BBC to receive it, so the same report / content will appear across several titles.
The LDR scheme has begun for Wrexham as of June 11th 2018.
Wrexham.com is not receiving any funding from the BBC, nor did we apply to run a contract.
The local contract, one of 59 across the UK, was awarded to Trinity Mirror (now ‘Reach PLC) but is being run via Newsquest, the new owners of NWN / The Leader. The figures show Trinity Mirror have 63 reporters and Newsquest have 38 reporters paid for by the BBC under the scheme across the UK, plus ‘overheads’ covered – with an apparent £34k-a-reporter budget in place.
Wrexham.com applied and was granted access to a ‘newsbank’ and the output of the LDR’s in a couple of neighbouring local authorities as well as Wrexham.
We can use the reports written under licence from the BBC, a licence that can be revoked by the BBC, meaning we would have to delete the reports of the LDR or elements of future work that contained that information.
To be clear we have not injected BBC tracking software, and have not been asked. If we are asked we will terminate the contract from our end.
At the start of the LDR scheme we were told it was meant to create new journalism jobs, and be additional reporting. This means the reporters should not be existing journalists just moved into the job (the initial candidate for Wrexham and Flintshire was an existing NWN reporter, not unusual, as on this HTFP article it notes one reporter is still listed as Chief Reporter at the paper the LDR works from!).
LDR schemes should mean the likes of Trinity Mirror (Reach), the Leader, BBC etc should be attending council meetings, media briefs and other such local democratic issues. Aside from the Leader that has not (June 2018) been happening.
Since the LDR scheme was unveiled it appears to have had a shift in that approach, with the LDR being seen as allowing media operations to use their resources elsewhere for other journalism.
Back to Wrexham.com – in reality we had three options:
– Focus our limited resources on other areas and take up the LDR feed as our local democracy output.
– Use the LDR output to supplement where we can’t cover.
– Not use the LDR at all.
We have settled on option 2, as we are proud of our slightly different coverage, and will embrace the extra eyes on areas we can’t or would not usually cover.
The BBC have own dedicated sub-site for the scheme here that has further details and we will periodically update on the scheme’s progress.