June 02, 2006 09:43 ET

Welsh Culture Minister to discuss future of the media in Wales

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - June 2, 2006) - Welsh Culture Minister to discuss future of the media in Wales Alun Pugh, Minister for Culture in the National Assembly for Wales has offered to sponsor a meeting of the Welsh media unions to discuss ongoing concerns about job losses and budget cuts in the industry.

He made the offer after a well-attended Wales TUC Conference fringe meeting in Llandudno, entitled 'Who Controls the Welsh Media'. During this meeting, Amicus National Officer Steve Sibbald and NUJ Deputy General Secretary John Fray outlined the impact of cuts in the Welsh media.

Steve Sibbald outlined the loss of production jobs in the Welsh printing industry. He described how the printing of many titles had been transferred to plants in England.

In addition, while the newspaper industry was investing GBP 1 billion in new production facilities, none of that was earmarked for Wales, despite incentives offered by the Welsh Assembly Government.

He also flagged up the impact of the Metro series of free newspapers that is now being circulated in the Cardiff area and that it drained advertising money from other publications while offering no local journalism to the community. He said:

"The Metro will have a massive effect, not on the 'inkies' who put the ink on the paper, but the journalists who write for other papers.

"All the Northcliffe people we speak to are terrified. They are told that they will be sacked if they join a union. If there is union recognition in their plants, they fear that management will close them down and move the work somewhere else.

"This from the so called defenders of free speech."

Linking in with the main message of the NUJ's Journalism Matters campaign, John Fray told the delegates:

"When it comes to democracy, we believe that people should be well informed and part of that is good quality journalism. It's part of the fabric of our society that people are given good quality information. If we lose it and have a less well informed society then heaven help us."

He also catalogued the threats to broadcasters, noting ongoing cuts in jobs in the ITV regions and explained that BBC Wales had sought to shed over 200 jobs as part of the UK-wide cuts currently being discussed with the broadcast unions.

"It's what you've got in your head, to know how to put the story and the pictures together. That's the real skill. It's a disgrace that you can lose those skills," he said.

Alun Pugh, Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport said two issues needed to be addressed; how the media reflected devolved politics across the UK, and how plurality (or a choice of news sources) was maintained in Wales.

He insisted, "the devolution penny has not dropped" in many London-based media organisations when reporting matters of public controversy. This meant that newspaper readers, and sometimes, viewers and listeners might not realise that reporting on issues such as trust schools or debates on smoking bans did not apply outside England.

He also accepted that newspaper readers in Wales were much more dependent on London-based publications than readers in Scotland. 85% of morning papers bought in Wales are published in London. Just 15% of morning papers sold in Scotland come from south of the border.

In response to concerns expressed about the levels of profits earned by regional newspaper groups, he highlighted the activities of Trinity Mirror, publishers of the Western Mail and the Daily Post. The group has long enjoyed a monopoly on Welsh-based morning papers.

The minister called Trinity Mirror, "a very interesting organisation, highly profitable but still shedding jobs." He explained that the company was about to apply for planning permission to redevelop part of the former Western Mail print works in Cardiff for residential use.

"It will be highly profitable, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the profits will not be going into journalism. It will go into dividends (for shareholders)," he added.

He said the paper, describing itself as 'the national newspaper of Wales', no longer employed a full-time lobby correspondent and no longer turned up to the weekly lobby briefings. Instead, he noted, "they rely on cut and pasting" the output from the Press Association.

Amicus, the NUJ and the other media unions are expected to hold their meeting with the Minister in the autumn.


Further information please contact Steve Sibbald on 020 7780 4132 or Andy Collinson, Chair NUJ Wales Council on 02920 639639 or Ashraf Choudhury in the Amicus press office on 020 7420 8914 or 07980 224761.

Contact Information

  • Amicus National Officer
    Steve Sibbald
    020 7780 4132
    Chair NUJ Wales Council
    Andy Collinson
    02920 639639
    Amicus Press Office
    Ashraf Choudhury
    020 7420 8914
    07980 224761