BBC deal will see new reporters recruited

Ashley Highfield, chair of the News Media Association and Johnston Press chief executive, has hailed the partnership
Ashley Highfield, chair of the News Media Association and Johnston Press chief executive, has hailed the partnership

The Falkirk Herald will benefit from a link-up with the BBC which will see dozens of local democracy reporters employed across the UK.

Contracts for 144 full-time and two part-time positions have been allocated to 58 news organisations following a competitive bidding process.

They will now receive funding from the BBC to cover employment costs of the reporters.

Once recruited, stories written by the democracy reporters will be shared with more than 700 media organisations that have signed up to be part of the Local News Partnerships scheme.

As part of its Charter commitment, the BBC is investing up to £8 million annually in the scheme during the next nine years.

Ashley Highfield, chair of the News Media Association, said: “The ground-breaking Local News Partnership between the NMA and the BBC is now becoming a reality which will benefit the BBC, local media and, most importantly, local communities.”

“The initiative has moved the whole relationship between the BBC and the local media sector from confrontation to collaboration, and key benefits will include 150 new journalists on the ground holding public institutions to account on behalf of their readers.

“Managed by local media and funded by BBC, the local democracy reporters are just a part of a slew of collaborative initiatives that will see local media get access to BBC’s local video and data journalism.”

To be awarded the democracy reporter contracts, the successful news organisations had to pass stringent criteria which included financial stability and a strong track record of relevant journalism in the area they were applying to cover.

Johnston Press, owner of The Falkirk, has won two of the available contracts in Scotland and will work with neighbouring news organisation in these and other areas to share the allocation of reporter.

This will lead to Johnston Press employing six local democracy reporters north of the border, covering Angus, Fife, Edinburgh, Lothian, Falkirk, Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire and the Borders.

The next step will be to start recruiting, with a view to becoming operational in the next few months.

A total of 150 local democracy reporters will eventually be employed once all contracts have been awarded.