BBC fights back on local news sharing

TALKS between the BBC and ITV to create a cost-cutting regional news partnership have hit a stumbling block, with the BBC disputing operating cost estimates provided by the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom.<br /><br />Ofcom has said that a basic schedule for the service would cost between &pound;40m and &pound;60m a year, with a fuller service costing up to &pound;100m.<br /><br />However, figures commissioned by the BBC estimate a maximum annual cost of &pound;30m to &pound;50m, at least &pound;20m of which would come from sharing resources with the BBC.<br /><br />The protest comes two weeks before the publication of the government&rsquo;s Digital Britain white paper, which will outline proposals to reform the funding of public service broadcasting and ensure the &ldquo;plurality&rdquo; of regional news.<br /><br />But the BBC fears the reforms would result in a large portion of its license fee being skimmed off to pay for regional news, and has emphasised that it does not see &ldquo;top slicing&rdquo; as a way forward.<br /><br />The BBC said yesterday that talks continued around a memorandum of understanding between itself and ITV, and that it remains committed to ensuring that regional news is available on channels other than the BBC.<br /><br />&ldquo;The BBC is more than willing to implement its commitment to sharing resources, buildings and pictures in pursuit of maintaining an informed democracy,&rdquo; said the corporation&rsquo;s director of policy and strategy, John Tate.<br /><br />Struggling ITV has said that it could no longer afford to produce regional news and that it intended to withdraw the service over a period of two years.