Welsh committee should have been bolder in its media plan
14 September 2020
The NUJ Welsh Executive Council statement on the Welsh Parliament Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee report into the Impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on journalism and local media
The NUJ’s Welsh Executive Council (WEC) welcomed the committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on journalism and local media and the opportunity for the union to give evidence. The WEC also welcomes many of the committee’s recommendations, such as calling on the Welsh government to urge the UK government to continue the Job Retention Scheme beyond October to sectors including news journalism and also to fill the gap of up to £8.5 million in BBC Cymru Wales’ funding. But the union had hoped for a bolder response. The NUJ’s evidence made it clear that problems in the Welsh media pre-date Covid-19 and the impact of the virus has been merely to accelerate and amplify these deep-seated structural problems which resulted from media organisations not investing in journalism and Google and Facebook taking news content for free while hoovering up the lion’s share of digital advertising. That’s why the committee should have supported the NUJ’s call for a levy on these tech giants to fund quality local news, commitment from the Welsh government to set up an arm’s-length funding organisation to stimulate innovation in the media and a voucher scheme for young people so they can buy subscriptions to newspapers/websites.
The committee’s recommendations:
- The Welsh Government should urge Ofcom to ensure that broadcasters maintain accuracy and impartiality by reporting on all four UK nations equally, as a matter of course, but especially when it comes to their approach to public health.
- The Welsh Government should provide the Committee with an assessment of the quality of information dissemination about COVID-19 during the pandemic.
- The Welsh Government should urge the UK Government to fill the gap of up to £8.5 million in BBC Cymru Wales’ funding.
- The Welsh Government should urge the UK Government to continue the Job Retention Scheme beyond October 2020 on a sectoral basis in recognition of the fact that the majority of news journalism businesses will not be able to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity for some time to come.
- The Welsh Government should encourage businesses to make use of the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme while they explore longer term solutions instead of making employees redundant.
- The Welsh Government should lead conversations with representatives from the sector to gain a clearer understanding of the immediate support required and explore solutions other than redundancies.
- The Welsh Government should urgently identify the changes necessary to enable statutory notices to be published by hyperlocal and online providers.
- The Welsh Government should provide financial support for community radio stations that are owned, licensed and operating in Wales.
- The Welsh Government should take affirmative action to encourage new entrants to the market and support innovative approaches to the provision of news journalism in Wales.