Almost as often as Bonfire Night follows Halloween, the start of the Society of Editors conference is usually followed at some point by a spat/dig/row/finger-pointing with the BBC.
This time, it was led by Theresa May, the home secretary, who said the BBC was harming local media by dominating the local news market.
Hold the Front Page editor Paul Linford wrote a blog post claiming Ms May was ‘in a time warp’ and had maybe picked up the wrong briefing note – one from four years ago when the BBC was planning to push harder into local news.
Likewise, Roy Greenslade in his weekly Evening Standard column said you couldn’t place the problems of the regional press at the BBC’s door. Then David Dimbleby waded in, saying the BBC could be damaging the local press, only for culture secretary Maria Miller to say it’s not really an issue at all.
For me, the BBC’s relationship with the local press is a bit like going to a school reunion and Billy Big Boots enters the room, helping himself to everything on offer, making his presence known, forgetting to say thank you on the way out and then saying what a poor night he had overall on Facebook – before ringing up one of the organisers a few weeks later to try and get a favour.
In that analogy, Billy isn’t harming his former classmates, but he is irritating them for not acknowledging what they’ve done for him, and not accepting that his life would be a lot tougher if they weren’t there – who would do his favours then? He can’t be blamed for all their problems, but he could certainly make things better for them.