Support for public interest news journalism fundamental to Welsh democracy - says National Assembly Committee
A robust, diverse, public interest journalism sector is fundamental to a functioning Welsh democracy, according to a National Assembly Committee.
The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has outlined a range of measures to preserve plurality in Wales in the face of diminishing editorial staff and merging newspaper titles sharing more resources.
The Committee found that Wales, more than other parts of the UK, had suffered as a result due to the lack of diversity and plurality across the country.
The Committee concludes the Welsh Government should formally recognise supporting news journalism as a strategic priority and should examine ways to support the sector in Wales. One option could be through more intelligent use of public notices and advertising budget, another is to consider a more direct funding model, possibly through an arms-length body.
Hyperlocal media was found to be an area where Wales is ahead of the game with proportionally more news outlets than the rest of the UK based on population. But while the Committee found there to be a willingness and appetite to start up hyperlocal sites, sustaining them was a much harder prospect.
"A free press and media has long been the mark of a free society," said Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.
"Without frank and independent journalism people may not be fully informed of what is done in their name and Governments, and others with power, will not be held to account for their actions.
"The decline of commercial news journalism in Wales should therefore concern us all. As in other parts of the world, the circulations of Welsh newspapers have dropped sharply in recent years while online circulation has grown – leading to job-losses, mergers and newspaper closures.
"Wales is far from alone in seeing a decline in traditional print newspapers. However, the Welsh media is smaller and less diverse than other parts of the UK and so the impact of these changes is affecting us disproportionately.
"We believe the Welsh Government should consider the importance of a diverse media sector as a strategic priority and investigate ways to support it either directly or indirectly."
The Committee makes 18 recommendations in its report, including:
That the Welsh Government uses the £100,000 it has set aside for this financial year and next for a contestable scheme for both new entrants and to support innovation and sustainability among current operators.
The Welsh Government should nurture and encourage the hyperlocal sector as a way of encouraging new entrants to the market and supporting innovative approaches to the provision of local news journalism;
The Welsh Government considers establishing publicly-funded arm's length news hubs, in light of the lack of market viability of local news provision in many areas of Wales; and,
That tech companies like Google and Facebook need to consider improving their support for news journalism in Wales.
Read the full report:
Inquiry into News Journalism in Wales (PDF, 1 MB)