Friday 30 October 2009

PA public service could cost £18m to go nationwide and need up to 800 reporters

Proposals for a public service reporting initiative run by the Press Association, to fill the gap left by cuts in journalists' jobs in covering courts and local authorities, would cost £15m to £18m a year and require 500 to 800 reporters if rolled out nationwide, according to PA's own estimates, paidContent:UK reports.
PaidContent quotes PA's training head Tony Johnston saying:"That's a lot of new money to bring in to the public spending round but, in terms of the BBC, it's three Jonathan Rosses." Johnston, speaking at a Digital Editors Network meeting in Preston, added that PA is not seeking BBC funds and the estimates are rough.
Johnston said it has already conducted a two-week trial in Essex. Now it wants to consider a trial of six to 12 months in Liverpool, to review that project with an "academic partner" and, depending on the outcome, "lobby for national funding" to take the idea nationwide. That would see teams of reporters covering council, police authority and health board meetings that many newspapers no longer send reporters to because, Johnston said, the current model is "broken".
Copy produced under the new public service initiative would be "available to all free of charge", Johnston said. The PA wouldn't hire all those 800 writers itself, even if it can take its idea nationwide – bloggers could be tasked with feeding in material if they can be verified, Johnston said.
Asked by paidContent:UK whether PA would consent to any government stipulations during the handing out of any public money, he said:"Any strings attached to the journalism ... we would find incredibly difficult to support."

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