Having mulled over the BBC’s plans to increase its local video output online and the less than enthusiastic response of The Newspaper Society for a few days I’m still left with the same question.

Isn’t one of the big plus points of the “digital revolution” the fact that we now have more choice?

So the Society’s attitude would seem to suggest it wants to restrict my choice.

I can understand why the Society is a bit twitchy. It looks after the interests of regional newspapers and the BBC’s online local video services are likely to have a direct impact on them.

It comes at a time when many regional newspapers are investing in new ways of working and bringing news to their readers – from blogging to video news.

The Society maintains the Beeb’s plans will lead to a duplication of local news services provided by the newspaper industry and were no different from the BBC’s ultra-local TV plans, which were previously withdrawn because of similar concerns.

The BBC said it would link to other news providers on the new sites, but that is deemed not good enough by the newspapers who say the expansion plans threaten to steal away audiences from them and undermine their ability to continue investing in digital technologies.

The Society claims that the multi-platform approach of many newspapers these days means there is no gap which the BBC needs to fill.

But I still can’t help thinking this flies in the face of the concept of increased choice.

Yes, there will be competition but isn’t that a fact of life whatever business you are in?

If the Society’s argument is expanded, then it should probably start complaining about the likes of Local Edition and Radical Press which are now providing ultra-local coverage around Stoke-on-Trent and possibly taking readers away from the city’s long-established newspapers.

We now have a bewildering range of choice thanks to the internet and everyone needs to do what they can to compete for our attention.

But quality and credibility remain key considerations – for me, at least – and if the BBC’s new sites are anything like its typical regional TV news output then I’ll be happily sticking with the online presence of certain newspapers.

That is my choice and I wouldn’t be impressed if such a decision was taken out of my hands.


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