As the editor of this newspaper, I believe without question in the vital importance of trusted local journalism here in the East of England.

We invest in training journalists who seek to challenge authority and hold power to account on your behalf, bringing you the news that matters when, where and how you want it.  

You only need to look at some of our latest stories like holding the mental health trust and police to account to understand the vital, valuable role we play in Norfolk and Waveney.

But I believe that controversial plans by the BBC to cut beloved local radio shows and pump the savings into digital are a threat to regional newspapers and, ultimately, local democracy. And it's your licence fee they want to spend to do it. 

We had the freedom and skill to break these stories. Without our ingenuity and investigative prowess these stories and countless others would have been missed. 

Our audiences are huge – 40 million people (73pc of GB population aged 15+) now read local news media in print or digital every month.  

Trust in our journalism is rising too. A recent survey found 81pc of Brits agree that they trust the news and information they see in their local news media – a rise of 7pc on 2018.

It’s no secret that the business model for local journalism is facing some challenges but we remain fully committed to finding a truly sustainable future for our sector.

And we’ll get there. We just need a bit of space and time to do it.

Two years ago, the BBC published highly controversial plans to transform its local journalism services.

A huge public outcry continues to surround the ‘Across the UK’ plans to inflict swingeing cuts on the corporation’s hugely popular local radio services with much-loved presenters. Here in Norfolk the likes of Treasure Quest and The Garden Party are under threat.   

Some of the money would be diverted into boosting the BBC’s digital services, ramping up its provision of local news online.


Why does this matter?

It’s no exaggeration to say that some local news titles may be forced to close if the ‘Across the UK’ plans are not stopped, leading to the BBC becoming the lone voice in some local communities. This is very unhealthy for local democracy. 

A voice, by the way, that doesn’t have the same freedom to campaign on your behalf like we do because of impartiality requirements.

For anyone who believes in freedom of speech that is a terrifying thought.

The problem lies with the BBC’s enormous and unique power - granted to the corporation by the licence fee - and the impact of this upon other news providers.

The licence fee enables the BBC to do things the commercial sector can’t, such as running websites with no advertising or paywalls on them. And YOU are legally required to fund it - hardly seems fair does it? 

We are always up for fair competition. Fair competition drives innovation and quality in many different sectors.

But, because of the enormous power of the licence fee, the BBC’s ‘Across the UK’ plans are the exact opposite of fair competition.

Under the plans, online readers – and the commensurate advertising revenues which we use to pay our local journalists – will be sucked away from our websites to the BBC’s. And I can assure you the quality will be poorer so not only will titles like the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News suffer the audience will as well. 

That pressure on our resources, at a time when we are grappling with a host of other challenges could cause some local titles to call it a day.  

That would be a disaster for the communities affected. 

So, far from boosting local journalism, we believe the BBC’s ‘Across the UK’ plans will in fact irrevocably damage local news.

What’s more, there is no need for the BBC to do this – the commercial local news sector already serves communities across the entire length and breadth of the UK. 

Enshrined in a Royal Charter, guardrails which are supposed to prevent the BBC misusing its power in this way have completely failed.

So, we need your help to tackle this problem.

By contacting your MP and asking them to write to the government about this issue you can make a real difference.

Your MP can express concern about the impact of the BBC’s ‘Across the UK’ plans and ask government what steps it will take to get the BBC to change course.

The local news sector believes in and values the contribution the BBC makes to our vibrant news ecosystem.

But there is a real risk that the ‘Across the UK’ plans could wreak untold damage on our vibrant local journalism sector.

We cannot allow that happen.

With your help we can get the BBC to be a better neighbour to local commercial titles, ensuring a vibrant and diverse local news sector for many years to come.