Last year, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru announced plans to “fund existing and new enterprises to improve Welsh-based journalism to tackle the information deficit”, and revealed that they would be calling for the creation of a shadow Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales.
In order to further these plans, an expert panel was established in June to provide recommendations and options to help strengthen Welsh media, and support the development of plans for a regulatory framework.
There are also calls to devolve broadcasting and communication powers to Wales.
In the current digital age where access to a wide range of information is available at our fingertips, many may question why Wales needs devolved broadcasting powers.
The answer is that trusted and reliable sources of information are vital to education and democracy.
A study for the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has concluded that news journalism encourages an informed public, political accountability and plurality of opinion.
However, the allegation that Welsh journalism is suffering from an “information deficit” is not an inaccurate one.
According to Senedd Research published last year, Welsh newspapers have seen substantial decline in their print circulations.
Between 2008 and 2020, the Western Mail’s print circulation fell by over three-quarters. The Daily Post’s circulation more than halved during the same period.
While the use of digital media has increased substantially – with WalesOnline experiencing a 1400% increase in online visits between 2008 and 2020 – the reluctance to charge for online content means that newspapers are losing revenue.
The UK Government reported a fall of 20.5% in advertising revenue in 2020 for national newspapers compared with the previous year, and a fall of 24.1% for regional newspapers.
This has resulted in closures and loss of news sources, impacting people’s access to news services. For, according to a Welsh Government report on digital inclusion in Wales, 180,000 people here still have no access to internet services.
While newspapers and online media are not the only important sources of information, television remains the most common news source in Wales, used by 75% of people, compared to 46% for social media; 43% for radio; 33% for newspapers; and 31% for websites and apps.
What all this means however, is that as Wales-based news sources continues to decline, reliance on primary UK-based news sources increases.
According to two separate Ofcom reports published in 2020 and 2021 respectively, BBC One and ITV Wales were the most-watched television-based news sources in Wales, and the Daily Mail was the most read online and print publication in Wales.
It can be argued that many UK-based news sources may indirectly present current affairs through a uniquely British lens, neglecting issues and perspectives that affect Wales.
Take the housing crisis in Wales. The Welsh Government has received stiff criticism from many UK-based media outlets for proposing measures to deal with second homes and rent controls to ease the impact of the housing crisis.
Such articles typically focus on the impact this will have on those wishing to purchase a second home, however they often do not acknowledge the wider impact of the housing crisis in Wales, nor do they acknowledge that Local Authorities in England may also consider implementing similar measures.
The full devolution of broadcasting rights in Wales is needed not only to protect Welsh journalism, but to protect people’s fundamental rights to readily access information that allows us to gain a full understanding of all issues that affect Wales.
This is an article written by Maria Pritchard of Yes Milford Haven and published in the Pembrokeshire Herald newspaper on 23.09.2022