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Addressing the Democratic Deficit – Presiding Officer to outline Assembly’s actions

7 November 2013

The National Assembly for Wales’s Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM, will outline the role that the Assembly will play in addressing the “democratic deficit” in Wales.

“Democratic deficit” is the term that Mrs Butler applied to the problem of many UK and Welsh media organisations failing to properly cover the work of the Assembly and the public policy differences in Wales as a result of devolution.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society annual Welsh lecture in the Pierhead on 7 November, she will outline some of the actions that the Assembly will take to address the issue.

“I believe it is one of the most profound problems facing the devolution process in Wales,” she said.

“By ‘democratic deficit', I mean who is relaying, or perhaps more importantly, who will be relaying the work of the National Assembly to the people of Wales in the future and performing that crucial role of holding the decision-makers here in Cardiff Bay to account?

“We have a UK media, both broadcasters and print, which fails to report the huge differences in approach to public policy in devolved fields such as health and education.

“It means their substantial Welsh audiences often get information that doesn’t apply to them.”

Following a series of sessions with UK and Welsh journalists from the traditional and digital media, also held at the Pierhead earlier this year, the Assembly has identified a number of actions.

“Over the summer months we have been taking some of those interesting ideas and formulating a response, including some innovative proposals,” the Presiding Officer added.

“Much of it focuses on what support can be provided to the emerging digital platforms in covering the work of the Assembly.”

The Assembly plans to:

  • work with digital and hyperlocal media and partner organisations to create a journalism hub in the Senedd that could provide content to these new digital channels;

  • make it easier to report the Assembly’s work by providing better communications facilities on the Senedd estate;

  • make the Assembly’s data more open and accessible;

  • ensure that Assembly Members are fully informed about how best to use the communication tools now available in this digital age;

  • work more closely with media organisations to take the Assembly out to the communities they represent with a series of regional Assembly press days; and

  • also work with those organisations to provide induction sessions for trainee journalists to ensure a better understanding of the work of the institution.

The Presiding Officer will outline the proposals during her speech at the RTS lecture which takes place in the Pierhead and begins at 18.00.

She will introduce the guest speaker, former BBC Chief Political Correspondent Guto Harri, who will give an address looking at the UK media’s coverage of the Assembly entitled “Wales – Not on their Radar”.

“The National Assembly must, and will, play its part,” said the Presiding Officer.

“I look forward to working closely with all those interested in ensuring plurality of media coverage and scrutiny of the National Assembly for Wales, to turn our discussions about the Democratic Deficit in to positive action.”

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