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NUJ urges Welsh government to reject traffic orders proposal

1 March 2012

The NUJ has called on the Welsh government to reject a proposal that would see public bodies no longer obliged to advertise traffic orders in newspapers.

At present, media companies receive more than £1m a year in revenue from such advertisements placed in Welsh newspapers. A consultation document issued on behalf of Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant suggests scrapping the obligation and allowing councils and the Welsh Government itself to decide how they publicise such orders.

The NUJ argues that ending advertising in newspapers would be a backward step, making it more difficult for communities to find out about such proposals. The union also fears that losing such revenue could prompt further job losses in the industry and even endanger the future of some titles.

Martin Shipton, Father of the NUJ Chapel (office branch chair) at Media Wales, which publishes the Western Mail, South Wales Echo, Wales on Sunday and the Celtic series of weekly papers, said:

"We are very concerned about the implications of this proposal, both from the point of view of informing members of the public about Traffic Orders and the threat to revenue and consequently jobs."

The NUJ's submission points out that while the original announcement of the proposal was linked to funding free blue badges for disabled drivers, no mention of that is made in the consultation document. The submission states:

"Our reaction was one of astonishment that two such different and unrelated issues were being linked. The Welsh Government currently has a block grant of more than £14bn, and if providing free blue badges is seen as a priority, we have no doubt that funds for such a scheme could be found elsewhere.
"We feel that the two issues have been linked in a spurious way in an attempt to justify what will be seen as an unwarranted attack on Welsh newspapers, our members and other workers in the industry.
"We believe it is significant that the consultation document to which we are responding makes no mention of the blue badge scheme. It instead suggests that the money saved by not placing Traffic Orders in newspapers could be used to publicise the relevant information in alternative ways. Such inconsistency demonstrates either a lack of clear thinking on the part of the policy makers or an ulterior motive."

Some 80 Media Wales staff members have signed individual letters expressing concern about the proposal as part of the consultation process.

The consultation ended on Wednesday 29 February 2012 and Carl Sargeant will announce his decision in due course.

Tags: , traffic orders, newspapers, regional newspapers, media wales, government wales, western mail, south wales echo, wales on sunday, celtic series