Theresa May: BBC are destroying local newspapers

Home Secretary attacks broadcaster's ability to subsidise online coverage

The BBC's dominant position on the internet is destroying local newspapers and threatens national publications, the Home Secretary has warned.

Addressing the Society of Editors' annual conference in London, Theresa May attacked the broadcaster's ability to subsidise its online coverage with the licence fee.

And Mrs May warned the "might of the BBC" could ultimately impact on "local democracy".

The Home Secretary said local newspapers are having "a particularly hard time".

She went on: "That's partly been the result of the BBC's dominant position on the internet and its ability to subsidise the provision of internet news using the licence fee.

"This makes it enormously difficult for local newspapers to compete. If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local media to buy a paper?

"It's destroying local newspapers and could eventually happen to national newspapers as well."

Mrs May said she had held discussions with her local newspaper the Maidenhead Advertiser about the impact of the BBC locally and the importance of having an "alternative local news source".

"This is as dangerous for local politics as it is for local journalism," the Home Secretary said. "Because as a local MP I value the ability to raise issues in my constituency in my local newspaper but also I value its role in disseminating information about what I and local councillors are doing in the area."

She added: "This is a debate that won't go away and I believe the BBC has to think carefully about its presence locally and the impact it has on local democracy."

Mrs May said she believed "a plurality of news sources is essential to our democracy". She warned if newspapers are forced to close down, the country could be left with a single source of information.

The Home Secretary said: "At a national level, we have a healthy number of competing newspapers in Britain and that's something we surely don't want to lose."

Mrs May went on: "A monopoly on the provision of information would be a perennial temptation to malpractice, inefficiency and corruption in exactly the same way almost every other kind of monopoly is.

"No single source of news can possibly represent the variety of opinion that there is in this country and a monopoly news provider would be far too easily captured by special interests.

"So competition in the provision of news is essential to democracy and diminishing competition is dangerous to the health of democratic politics.

"That's why it's important that the internet does not have the effect of making a plurality of newspapers commercially impossible in Britain."

Mrs May is the second senior Tory in as many weeks to draw attention to BBC's role in the political process after party chairman Grant Shapps accused the corporation of biased reporting and questioned its funding.

Mr Shapps claimed there was a "question of credibility" for the BBC over whether it applied "fairness" to its reporting of politics.

With the BBC's royal charter coming up for renewal in 2016, he also suggested that there were "lots of different ways" in which licence fee-payers' money could be used to fund public service broadcasting and said that the £145.50 annual fee would be "too much" if it failed to reform.

Mr Shapps's comments were later criticised by the Deputy Prime Minister and LibDem party leader Nick Clegg who said it was unhealthy for political parties to question the corporation's impartiality and attacked the Tories for popping up "like clockwork" to "browbeat" it in the run up to an election.

Turning to the royal charter on press regulation, which was recently sealed by the Queen following a meeting with Government ministers in the Privy Council, the Home Secretary said: "I believe wholeheartedly in a free press. I've argued today that a free press is vital if we are to confidently claim that we live in a democracy."

She went on: "I know practically every journalist has a visceral distrust of any system that could lead innocently or otherwise to what amounted to censoring the press. That's an understandable anxiety and one that I share.

"But there is cross-party agreement for a royal charter and I genuinely believe that most politicians - indeed the vast majority - have no wish whatsoever to censor the press. Far from it."

The charter will create a watchdog to oversee a new press regulator.

Media organisations will then be free to sign up or stay outside the new system of regulation.


peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam