If BBC head of news James Harding is serious about buying in local content then he should look no further than creating a budget for material from agencies and freelancers.

That's according to the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Press Agencies Jon Harris, who said freelance organisations were the most important supplier of news, features and pictures to the wider media – and should be a key source of content for the BBC.

Harris, who is also managing director of Manchester-based Cavendish Press, was speaking after Harding said the corporation was investigating buying content from local newspapers and setting up a fund to pay for court reporting.   He said: "I’m not sure why the BBC would turn to local papers for their news content when sadly quality journalism is being affected by the culling of jobs and the closure of publications in the interests of furthering a web based agenda.

 ‘’The reality is quality journalism is better achieved if journalists are out there in the field meeting people and making contacts. Unfortunately some regionals appear to be heading towards a call centre business model where staff never leave the office. But you cannot rely on the phone, the internet and social media to get stories.

"Press agencies like those in NAPA have staff present in courts, on the doorsteps and at the news conferences and media briefings. ’They represent the true training ground of the future journalists who learn the proper way how to source and compile stories and pictures – rather than sitting at a desk with  headset on.

‘’Unlike newspapers, magazines, websites and broadcasters who are subsidised by advertising or licence fee, press agencies have to pay their own way to provide the most important stories of the day – compiled to the best possible standard and more often than not with a picture package included.   ‘’Our media partners on the UK national papers or magazines know that if they want a reporter on the ground anywhere in the country, they simply need to find the agency that covers that patch.

‘’That means that the BBC has a ready-made network for local news that they can access not just for courts, but for any key regional news."   NAPA, which was founded in 1982, represents more than 70 freelance news and photographic agencies which are major suppliers of stories and pictures to UK national newspapers and other media.

 NAPA Vice Chairman Michael Leidig who runs the news agency Central European News with 15 offices around the world said: "When the BBC had a budget for agencies we even had a small studio at the back for Q&As. The BBC would see a story we compiled for the Telegraph or the Daily Mail, and we would then do Q&As for various BBC outlets throughout the day.

"We also used to do news packages from live reports through to travel features, and would file breaking news straight to the BBC online pages from people on the ground. But everything was axed from one day to the next and the BBC just vanished as a client."

Leidig added: "NAPA agencies are not looking for any favours, our material is published because we deliver first and we are the best, and we get it right, and all the BBC needs to do to is put a budget on the table and it could start tomorrow."   NAPA is unique in the world, offering small agencies with only a couple of reporters through to large scale media giants which rival even national paper newsrooms.