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Montgomery attacks 'predatory' BBC over local news provision

The newspaper veteran David Montgomery will on Thursday revive his long-held criticism of the BBC's encroachment into local news provision when he accuses it of "predatory behaviour" which harms commercial rivals.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Montgomery will use the foreword to the annual results announcement of National World, the London-listed company he runs, to launch a scathing attack on the corporation.

Mr Montgomery, whose company owns titles including The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, has been a staunch critic of the BBC's presence in online news, saying in 2019 that its remit needed to be redefined.

On Thursday, he will say that National World has been at "the forefront of the campaigning against predatory behaviour by the BBC which uses taxpayer funds to compete online, threatening local independent journalism".

"It is remarkable that the BBC, financed by a compulsory tax, is permitted to enforce its monopoly in the news sector month after month," he will add in remarks which have been obtained by Sky News.

"In January 2024, 3.1 billion page views for BBC News dwarfed the combined total of the UK's 28 leading independent news sites, including MailOnline, The Sun and, of course, National World.

"In no other sector would such an unfair market be tolerated by regulators."

Mr Montgomery has been pushing for the News Media Association, an industry body, to take a more robust position against the BBC.

Sky News is among the commercially-owned channels which competes with the BBC in the provision of news across different media platforms.

National World, which has a market value of about £38m, was among the prospective bidders for The Daily Telegraph, holding talks with financial backers before an ill-fated deal was struck with the Abu Dhabi-funded investment vehicle RedBird IMI.

Mr Montgomery wants his company to transition from being a media business with a specific expertise in news journalism, to becoming a broader content provider across media platforms.

The BBC has faced further criticism this week from commercial groups over its plans to broadcast advertising as part of its radio content.

On Wednesday, Tim Davie, the BBC director-general was asked about the organisation's news strategy, rebutting the suggestion that the Corporation was responsible for the declining commercial provision of local news.

"I think some of these things are structural, so if you look at the decline of local print... look at the trend lines there," he told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

"So I think this is not the BBC causing this issue. And actually, if you look at the amount of journalism we're producing, it's often very, very different or in a different level of coverage to others out in the market."