Developing a healthy media landscape for Wales

The last couple of months have been interesting from a Welsh journalism perspective.

We have had the findings of two “expert panels” published, one looking specifically at public interest news provision in Wales, the other looked at the responsibilities for broadcasting in Wales. Ofcom published their annual report on news consumption in the UK in July with their media consumption research findings published last week.

The Wales Public Interest Journalism Group, of which I was a member for eight months of its existence, published “Of and for Wales” which recommends the setting up of a Wales Media Institute, with the following purpose:

The purpose of the Institute would be to serve citizens and media users in Wales by scrutinising the quality, reliability and sustainability of media outlets operating here, and it would be tasked with delivering the majority of the recommendations contained within this report.

With those recommendations being:

  • Support the development of a diverse, resilient journalism workforce in Wales at all levels by developing training programmes through further education and apprenticeships; supporting innovation including co-creational models for local communities; and offering advice and support to journalists.
  • Commission robust, evidence-based research to better understand the needs of media users in Wales.
  • Initiate research and development to identify the specific needs of public interest journalism in the Welsh language, making further recommendations accordingly.
  • Work with providers and users of public interest journalism to develop healthy levels of media literacy for all citizens of Wales.
  • Be set up as a body that could raise funds in support of the above objectives, and administer grants.
  • Set up a contestable fund for new and existing news outlets, administered at arms-length, with clear criteria based on the needs of citizens and communities.
  • Prioritise coverage of ‘news deserts’ in Wales.
  • Guarantee that providers of public interest journalism can bid for public advertising and marketing campaigns, with commitment to a minimum spend.
  • Ensure that statutory public notices are disseminated via a range of appropriate providers of public interest journalism in Wales.
  • Support and confer ‘asset of community value’ status on local newspapers to ensure titles are preserved.

All pretty standard stuff. The need for financial support and investment in public interest journalism in Wales is critical. It’s debatable whether an institute and the associated costs of running it would benefit the industry in the long term.

The recommendations could be delivered by a couple of able individuals freeing up cash for actual journalists to be employed across Wales.

During the same period of operation of The Wales Public Interest Journalism Group, an expert panel examined the need for greater Welsh influence over broadcasting in Wales. Broadcasting isn’t a devolved competency at present.

“A new future for broadcasting in Wales” proposes setting up a Shadow Authority employing four full-time staff at a cost of £220,000 a year with a further £100,000 allocated for “contracted expert provision”.

Journalism was discussed at length by the panel so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two proposals, a Wales Media Institute and Shadow Authority being merged, between the two we are looking at a minimum spend of £500,000 per annum on staffing alone.

Ofcoms two reports were both illuminating and informative.

Welsh people, we were glad to hear, are interested, in substantial numbers, in news about Wales. A far higher percentage here than in England, where interest in English news is around 10% lower. Traditional TV viewing continues to decline, but radio listening continues to be strong, with more and more people listening digitally, listening via smart speakers has grown four-fold in a year.

What is clear is that audiences continue to fragment when it comes to accessing content, including news. News is the second most popular subject when it comes to viewing short-form videos.

That’s why our proposal makes increasing sense.

Public interest journalism delivered via radio, discussing the issues of the day, feeding a continually updated website and sharing content in relevant formats via social media.

Whilst we support any endeavour that enhances public interest news in Wales, what is needed now, more than ever, is more and better provision in Wales.

We hope that Talking Wales is the first of many such ventures.

Huw Marshall

Founder Talking Wales

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