Welsh government agrees £200k grant to fund hyperlocal news start-ups over two years

The Welsh government and Plaid Cymru have agreed to fund a “start-up grant” for journalists who want to set up their own hyperlocal news business.

The £200,000 in funding forms part of the Labour-led government’s £210m two-year draft budget agreement, which has been backed by opposition party Plaid Cymru.

Under the plans, £100,000 will be made available each year (2018-19 and 2019-20) to fund hyperlocal news ventures with funding support via Business Wales.

Dr Andy Williams, a lecturer at Cardif University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, said the decision was “ground-breaking” but needed to be carried out “smartly” and “very sensitively”.

He tweeted: “Mechanisms for public subsidy for journalism need to be iron-clad independent, and miles away from political influence. Decisions cannot, and should not, be made anywhere near politicians. Totally do-able: precedent already exists with Welsh-language news subsidy.

“Any public money for news should be contestable, to ensure excellence is rewarded over mediocrity. Also, it should be directed at areas of greatest need, to ensure news deficits are addressed (e.g. socially essential public interest reporting, experimentation with new business models).”

He added: “This innovative policy *begins* to level the playing field by giving chance of *some* cash to new players excluded from existing subsidies.”

In June regional publisher Newsquest 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.

The Welsh Assembly’s (pictured top) Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into news journalism in Wales.

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