Welsh government quizzed over grant to Newsquest following closure of Newport subbing hub
10 March 2017
The National Union of Journalists in Wales has renewed its call for the establishment of an expert news advisory group by the Welsh Government after it emerged that more than £300,000 had been paid to Newsquest to set up a subbing hub in Newport which is now closing.
Ken Smith, who chairs the union's Welsh Executive Council, said:
"While the Welsh Government subsidy to Newsquest was undoubtedly well-intentioned, it failed to secure any improvement in news coverage in Wales, which in recent years has suffered from a rapid decline in the number of journalists employed. The subbing hub at Newport was mainly established by Newsquest to do the work of production journalists made redundant in England and Scotland."
Welsh Government grants were paid to Newsquest on the proviso that workers were employed until at least 2020. Ken Smith said that if the conditions of the grants had been broken, Newsquest should pay the money back. He said:
"Setting up a subbing hub of this kind far from the communities served by the newspapers concerned was never a good idea, as Newsquest now appears to realise. News provision in Wales is in crisis and the Welsh Government has a crucial role to play in securing the industry's future. The lesson of the Newport debacle is that a more strategic approach is required. The establishment of an expert news advisory group by the Welsh Government would greatly help to this end and we shall be writing to Economy Secretary Ken Skates asking him to consider our proposal as a matter of urgency."
John Toner, national organiser for Wales of the National Union of Journalists, said:
"This company is not a struggling start-up, but a major player in this country and in the USA. Why did it feel the need to apply for government funding? Newsquest owes an apology to the Welsh Government and to Welsh taxpayers."
Support local news in Wales, come along to an event for the union's Local News Matters campaign at the Welsh Assembly at 18.30 Conference rooms 1 and 2, Tŷ Hywelon, Tuesday March 28.