NUJ report fuels row over Western Mail job losses

By Colin Crummy

Trinity Mirror has dismissed a report
commissioned by the NUJ that claims there is “very little evidence” to
support job cuts at its Cardiff-based newspaper group, the Western Mail
& Echo.

Trinity said the report by Dr James Thomas, a
journalism lecturer at Cardiff University, was “a catalogue of errors,
inaccuracies and assumptions”.

The report was commissioned by the
NUJ ahead of a meeting of the Welsh National Assembly’s culture, Welsh
language and sport Committee on Thursday [19 January] to discuss the
future of the Welsh print media.

It challenges the “difficult
economic conditions” explanation given by Trinity Mirror for the 44
proposed redundancies, which include 10 journalists’

jobs.

The
report argues: “Trinity Mirror has continued to make high profits –
approximately £200m in 2005. Its regional press operation is among the
most profitable and this is true specifically of its Welsh newspapers.”

The
report also claims the downturn in advertising revenue experienced by
the company was merely cyclical and that there was no evidence to
suggest that Trinity Mirror’s local/regional newspaper operation was
under threat from the growth of the internet.

A spokesperson for
Trinity Mirror said Keith Dye, managing director of the Western Mail
& Echo, would address these “most significant errors”

in his presentation to the committee.

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey turned down an invitation to give evidence.

Plaid
Cymru’s shadow culture minister, Owen John Thomas, attacked Bailey’s
refusal to appear. He said her “seemingly dismissive attitude”
suggested “a disregard for the work of the National Assembly and the
people of Wales”.

He added: “The consequences of Trinity Mirror’s
redundancies at the Western Mail and South Wales Echo over the past two
years do not bode well for the future of journalism in Wales.

They
seem intent on moving away from national and regional news publishing,
which is at odds with the requirements of post-devolution Wales.”

The
Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: “We are at a total loss to understand
the comments made by Owen John Thomas. He is utterly wrong to suggest
that we are ‘moving away from national and regional news publishing’,
the exact opposite is the case, as Keith’s presentation will make
clear.”

Holyrood to investigate media
MSPs TURN SPOTLIGHT ON JOB CUTS

The
Scottish Parliament has ordered a report into the state of Scotland’s
media following a series of job losses over the past two months, writes
Hamish Mackay.

Holyrood researchers will examine the newspaper, television and radio industries, and report to the parliament by March.

This
could result in a series of hearings with media owners on similar lines
to when MSPs questioned BBC Scotland last year over its plans to shed
195 jobs and introduce new local news services over the next three
years.

Over the past two months, Scottish Media Group has
announced it would be cutting 59 jobs at Scottish Television and
Grampian Television, while Trinity Mirror is shedding 43 posts at the
Daily Record and Sunday Mail, 22 jobs will go at the Scottish Daily
Mirror, and The Scotsman has paid off seven journalists.

Scottish
National Party MSP Alex Neil, who is convener of the Scottish
Parliament’s enterprise and culture committee, said: “The job of our
committee isn’t to get involved operationally in how media companies
work.

“We want to take a strategic review of what is happening, although obviously the job situation will form part of that.”

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