Welsh Assembly 'should consider newspaper subsidies'

The Welsh assembly government should consider offering financial support to the nation’s struggling newspaper industry, a committee has recommended.

The cross-party group of assembly members warned in a report that the newspaper industry in Wales “could well face extinction” unless urgent action is taken.

The stark warning was issued by the committee following a three-month scrutiny in which numerous local newspaper editors gave evidence.

The committee has now made a series of suggestions in a report, including a recommendation that the assembly government establish dialogue with newspaper companies and unions to explore means of supporting English language journalism in Wales.

This may take the form of the assembly providing assistance to English-language titles in Wales akin to the help currently given to Welsh-language publications Barn, Golwg and Y Cymro – which receive £173,000 per year.

The report states: “We agree with this view that we do not pay enough attention to our ‘political culture’ and the Welsh assembly government should investigate providing similar support to English-language Welsh newspapers, in view of their current precarious positions.”

The committee also urged the assembly government to rethink its advertising policy and ensure revenue is not always channeled to the same handful of papers to the exclusion of others.

It said: “We suspect that sometimes it is easier to ‘tick a box’ by advertising in the Western Mail.

“We are disappointed that the Welsh Assembly Government has not fulfilled the recommendation of the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee’s reviews of newspapers in 2005 and would like to see a broader approach to placing Welsh Assembly Government advertising in more local papers, advertising websites and taking account of all equality strands.”

The report also touched upon the issue of local authority newsletters which it recognised cause “problems for local papers”.

The report said: “We agree that this is not an appropriate use of public funds and may be damaging to the newspaper industry in Wales, especially if it serves to compete with local papers to provide advertising space.”

Assembly member Dai Lloyd, who chaired the committee, said: “The challenges facing the newspaper industry are wide-ranging.

“What is clear is that if no action is taken on any level by any stakeholders, the newspaper industry in Wales could well face extinction.

“Survival is dependent upon rapid evolution and reaction to these pressures.

“Any successful solutions are likely to be equally wide-ranging and we hope the newspaper industry and governments act quickly and appropriately to safeguard newspapers in Wales and the valuable contribution they make.”

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