Newsquest pays back £245k Welsh government grant 'in full' after closure of Newport subbing hub

Newsquest has paid back “in full” a Welsh government grant of £245,000 that was given to the publisher to safeguard jobs at its Newport subbing hub, which closed in April.

A spokesperson for the regional news publisher told Press Gazette it was currently meeting the “terms and conditions of the grant”, but had plans to “undertake further changes” to its business between now and 2020.

They said: “Although we have no current plans to do this, we believed it would be correct to return the grant, and Newsquest has therefore given back the £245,000 grant in full.

“This was entirely at our own volition. We would like to thank the Welsh Government for their support.”

The Newport hub, based in Maesglas, opened in 2013 and at its peak employed 70 people. It edited copy for Newsquest newspapers as far away as Scotland after production staff on local titles were sacked.

The government subsidy, paid two years ago, had been conditional on 15 jobs at the Welsh hub being safeguarded until 2020 – amid concerns it would close – and was intended to promote job creation.

In April this year, Newsquest opted to shut the Newport hub with the loss of 14 jobs and move the work to another production centre in Weymouth, Dorset, which is expected to close this month.

The National Union of Journalists has called for the repaid money to be redistributed “to aid local newspapers” in Wales.

John Toner, NUJ Welsh organiser, said: “The lesson of this sorry tale is that the Welsh government should have used the grant to support local newspapers and fund media start-ups rather than this profitable American-owned publisher.

“That is why we are asking that the refunded money be used to aid new and struggling news enterprises.

“In our submission to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communication Committee inquiry, News Journalism in Wales, we gave the example of the Port Talbot Magnet, a not-for-profit community co-operative, set up seven years ago with a £10,000 grant from the Carnegie Trust to fill a news blackspot.

“Despite breaking many stories and being popular with readers, the economic pressures on all businesses in Port Talbot following the steel crisis made it impossible to support a local news service through advertising alone and in September 2016 the paper was closed.

“This is the sort of enterprise which should have been supported.”

 

 

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