Plans for local newspapers to sell stories to the BBC could not be ruled out, but must be treated with caution, the editorial director of Trinity Mirror Midlands has said.
Responding to comments made by the BBC director general, Mark Dickinson said there was a potential to work with the broadcaster, as long as the arrangement equally benefited both parties.
"We are both interested and concerned about the BBC's plans to use stories from local and regional papers to create a new level of localness for the BBC in the Midlands," Mr Dickinson said. "Regional newspapers and the BBC have an interest in trying to serve the news and information needs of people in every kind of different community.
"Regional newspapers have a long and trusted history of servicing these needs at a much more local level than the BBC ever has, which is why we are cautious of the BBC's ambitions in this area."
At the Society of Editors annual conference in Glasgow Mr Thompson said the corporation was considering boosting its local digital services by paying the print media for stories.
He suggested that the BBC could enter into contractual relationships with newspapers – making it a potential partner rather than a threat to other media organisations.
He said: "In addition to our own local and regional newsrooms, we want to draw on the news-gathering clout of the UK’s local and regional newspapers – and we’ll pay for it.
"That means a revenue stream but also visibility and credit on the BBC’s new local service."
Mr Dickinson said the speech was the first time that the BBC had expressed an interest in paying local newspapers for stories, but said it was too early to tell if any such arrangement could work.
He said: "Mark Thompson in Glasgow raised the issue of payment in a more concrete way than it had been raised before. Of course as a news generating organisation we would be interested in developing an understanding of how that might work, but it is early days to be talking about partnership."
Trinity Mirror – which owns newspapers in the region including The Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph – has already discussed the implications of working together as part of a Midlands-based BBC pilot. But Mr Dickinson said there were still questions that needed to be answered, including the impact selling stories would have on the popularity of icNetwork – Trinity Mirror's online news service.
He said: "Five years ago people were using Yahoo's search engine, MSN and Google. Although all these search engines still exist, over time Google has emerged as the dominant leader.
"Sometimes it is not the first to market that wins the day and the BBC is very innovative with its website, as it can be with licence-payers’ money.
"On on the other hand the BBC's vision may constrain commercial development of some areas. I think we would have to be clear in our own minds that such agreement would be of genuine mutual benefit and that we were not undermining our own strategic position before we signed up."
In his speech the director general said that the global media industry was facing upheaval amid the digital revolution and the challenge of adapting to the internet.
"Historically, everyone knew where they were," he said. "The BBC did TV and radio. Newspapers did print.
"Well, it should be clear that these divisions by platform are on the way out. Everyone is bumping into everyone.
"People who were used to having a media market more or less to themselves are suddenly finding multiple new entrants, some with entirely different business models, some with very deep pockets.
"It’s not surprising, then, that media companies who once regarded the BBC as wholly irrelevant to their commercial interests now regard it as a potential danger."
But he said that the challenges faced by the British media could not be blamed on the BBC as they were being experienced on a global scale and in markets without publicly funded broadcasters.
Mr Thompson said he did not believe the BBC was on a "head-on collision course" with the local and regional newspaper groups, who saw much of their financial future on the line. "Many people clearly do decide to buy one newspaper rather than another – and a free newspaper like the ones flooding the London market really could substitute for a paid one," he said.
But, he added, it is by no means clear that the same holds true for websites.
"People who are interested in news will often use a range of different websites," he said.
The director general concluded: "The disruptive forces we face are global ones and often spearheaded by global businesses.
"It may be that within the right context and, of course, with the right safeguards we can meet some of these forces more successfully together.
"At the BBC we’re ready for a new partnership with the UK’s regional and national newspapers. It’s a partnership that I hope many will feel able to join."