New National Assembly committee to scrutinise Welsh media
23 June 2016
The National Assembly for Wales has responded to NUJ calls for greater scrutiny of the media by establishing a Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee.
In a letter to NUJ representatives, presiding officer Elin Jones AM said she agreed that “a strong Welsh media is crucially important to the Assembly’s work and the health of Welsh democracy”.
The NUJ had called for the establishment of a media and communications committee but the presiding officer assured the union that the new broader committee would provide “greater prominence to this important area of policy within the committee structure and will ensure that it receives due attention”.
In a letter to Ms Jones, the NUJ had stated that “a strong Welsh media is crucial to the democratic process, holds the powerful to account and offers a voice to those who might otherwise be ignored”. It added:
“The Welsh Government has law-making powers in areas including health, education, local government, transport, housing, agriculture and the environment and the media is a crucial overseer of the way in which that influence is wielded. With the Wales Bill expected to pass through Parliament in the next 12 months, devolving further policy areas to Wales, a strong Welsh media is as important today as it ever has been.
"The NUJ believes, therefore, that the Welsh Assembly should play a greater role in assessing the media in Wales and helping to address any deficit in coverage of Welsh life.”
There was cross-party support in the Assembly for the NUJ’s position and members in Wales are now looking forward to working with the new committee chair and members.
The Welsh Assembly’s decision to establish the committee is subject to political approval, but should meet before the summer recess, follows a campaign by the NUJ in Wales to address the media crisis and growing democratic deficit.
Last November, the union launched its Media Manifesto for Wales, calling on Welsh politicians to give greater attention to media policy, and in March national executive member Paul Scott and Cardiff and South East Wales branch chair Martin Shipton addressed AMs at the Senedd.
Members at Trinity Mirror North Wales have balloted for industrial action over the company’s decision to scrap eight roles in the region, withdraw the Daily Post’s political reporter from Cardiff and confirm the non-replacement of key staff.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"We are hugely encouraged by the Assembly’s response to our concerns about the media in Wales and thank the presiding officer for listening to us and agreeing to create this committee. Trinity Mirror is letting down the people of Wales and showing huge disrespect to the media's role in the democratic process. This is what happens when decisions are made by bean counters in London. It is also essential that politicians in Wales are able to hold media companies to account for the decisions they make."
Paul Scott, NUJ national executive member for Wales, also welcomed the National Assembly’s decision to create a Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee. He said:
“We will be in contact with the new chair of the committee and its members as soon as they are confirmed to discuss how we can help frame its work programme. Given recent announcements concerning Trinity Mirror North Wales and that company’s dominance of the print media in Wales as a whole, we would ask the committee to call on chief executive Simon Fox to give evidence as soon as possible. We believe he should be held to account publically for moves that we believe are diminishing quality journalism in Wales.”