Welsh govt panel to look at new models for journalism

 

  • Panel would be staffed by independent media experts
  • Online advertising ‘will not have significant impact' of newspaper profits
  • Risks of ‘news black-holes' where titles close

The National Assembly has recommended the creation of a new independent panel to examine the Welsh media and the creation of sustainable business models for the local press.

The recommendations were made in a report by the task and finish group set up to examine the future of the Welsh media last September.

It said panel should also examine issues such as the devolution of powers over broadcasting in Wales, and carry out a wide-ranging review mapping the country's 'media needs".

If it gets the green light from the Welsh Government, the new panel would be staffed by independent experts with experience across the sector. It would also be asked to monitor the Welsh media landscape and provide advice and guidance to the Government.

'What has become clear during the course of our inquiry is that there is still a healthy appetite for Welsh-focused media and information in Wales,'said Labour AM Ken Skates, who chaired the group.

'However, the way that people are consuming that information is evolving rapidly."

The group made a total of 23 recommendations. They included:

  • The Welsh Government setting up news protocols to engage with newspapers following closures and job losses to ensure 'viable measures can be put in place'
  • Making Ofcom, broadcasters and newspaper owners report annually to the Assembly on their responsibilities and commitments to Wales
  • Closely monitoring the amount of political coverage provided by BBC Wales
  • Exploring opportunities for the introduction if a 'Wales-specific Channel 3 licence".

During its submissions to the inquiry, the NUJ warned that Welsh newspapers were facing a crisis that 'threatens their survival".

In response, the task and finish group said it was clear that online advertising 'will not have a significant impact on the profitability of newspapers".

It was also difficult to see how journalists 'can continue to produce content for a number of platforms without quality suffering", the group suggested, adding that the situation was worsened by the reduction in the number of journalists.

The group recommended: 'Given the contribution that print media can make to local communities, and indeed its importance on a national level, and given the risks of news black-holes appearing where titles close, we feel that, where there are job losses at a newspaper company, or where there is a risk of a title closing, the Welsh Government should ensure that it is in a position to be able to assist those companies, in the same way that it would assist companies in similar difficulties in other industries.'

It also noted that, given the limited time frame of its investigation, it was unable to gather enough information to make conclusions on the issue of public subsidy of the press.

'However, we feel that the independent forum should consider, as part of its role, sustainable models for the print industry, and that this consideration should also include the issue of public subsidy, as happens in other small European countries,'it added.

'A strategic approach to the sustainability of Welsh Language publications should also be a focus for the independent forum‘s work."

It was reported last month that the committee's report was delayed because it was split over the subject of public notices such as traffic orders – which are considered to be a form of indirect public subsidy – being removed from newspapers.

The group concluded that Welsh Government should 'fully consider the impact any such proposals could have on an industry in which existing business models are already experiencing considerable difficulties".

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