National newspapers are failing to adequately cover news stories from Wales, because of a lack of local correspondents and an over reliance on Press Association copy, according to a new report funded by the Welsh Assembly.
The independent report, from the Institute of Welsh Affairs think-tank, has accused the UK media of a ‘lack of awareness about Wales”, which it said was leading to a ‘persistent marginalisation of Welsh coverage”.
It found that London-based national newspapers accounted for 87 per cent of daily newspaper readership in Wales – in contrast with Scotland, where the majority of the nationals print separate editions.
Far from consistent
‘The absence of Welsh editions of London newspapers might not be a problem if the reporting of Wales were substantial and consistent,’the report said. ‘However, this is far from the case.”
According to the IWA’s research, the only national newspaper with a staff reporter in Wales is the News of the World, which has a correspondent based in Cardiff.
The report said other papers relied on PA, which has five staff in south Wales, including one dedicated Welsh Assembly correspondent.
IWA chairman Geraint Talfan Davies, the former BBC Wales controller who compiled the report, said: ‘Perhaps the most startling fact to emerge from our research is that each day only 100,000 readers in Scotland read newspapers with almost no
Scottish content, whereas in Wales 1,760,000 are reading papers with virtually no Welsh content.
‘It seems to us impossible to argue that those figures do not have serious consequences for informed democracy in Wales.”
The only London newspaper to have attempted a Welsh edition in recent times was The Daily Mirror, which launched The Welsh Mirror in 1999. It folded four years later as part of a strategic review by Trinity Mirror.
The IWA report also examined the decline of ITV‘s regional spending in Wales, which the IWA said was less than half that spent by BBC Wales.
It found regional programming requirements on ITV Wales had dropped from 12 hours to 8.5 hours since 2000 – 5.5 hours of which is news programming.
The report questioned ITV’s plans to scale back on regional news coverage with the merging of the existing 17 news regions to form nine bigger news patches, and asked whether ITV Wales should be made autonomous from ITV plc to safeguard its public service coverage.
‘ITV plc has seemed in recent years to want to concentrate on success as a commercial channel and to be out of sympathy with the whole idea of regional broadcasting,’the report said.
The publication of the IWA report coincides with Ofcom’s review of public service broadcasting, the results of which are expected next year.