|Carwyn Jones MS|
|David Melding MS|
|Helen Mary Jones MS|
|John Griffiths MS|
|Mick Antoniw MS|
|Emma Meese||Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Ifan Morgan Jones||Prifysgol Bangor|
|Paul Rowland||Trinity Mirror|
|Professor Stephen Cushion||Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Steve Johnson||Prifysgol De Cymru|
|University of South Wales|
|Manon Huws||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Martha Da Gama Howells||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. COVID-19: Tystiolaeth o effaith pandemig COVID 19 ar newyddiaduraeth a'r cyfryngau lleol||2. COVID 19: Evidence of the impact of the COVID 19 outbreak on journalism and local media|
|3. COVID-19: Tystiolaeth o effaith pandemig COVID 19 ar newyddiaduraeth a'r cyfryngau lleol||3. COVID 19: Evidence of the impact of the COVID 19 outbreak on journalism and local media|
|4. Papurau i'w nodi||4. Papers to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:29.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:29.
Prynhawn da a chroeso cynnes i bawb, fy nghyd-Aelodau a'r tystion, i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu y Senedd. Yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 34.19, dwi wedi penderfynu bod y cyhoedd ddim yn cael mynediad i'r cyfarfod er mwyn diogelu iechyd y cyhoedd. Bydd y cyfarfod yn cael ei ddarlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv, gyda phob un yn ymuno drwy video-conference. Bydd trawsgrifiad y cyfarfod yn cael ei gyhoeddi fel arfer. Ar wahân i bethau mae'n rhaid inni eu gwneud er mwyn cynnal y cyfarfod o bell, mae'r Rheolau Sefydlog eraill i gyd yn eu lle.
Bydd y cyfarfod yn cael ei gynnal drwy'r Gymraeg a Saesneg, a bydd cyfieithiad, wrth gwrs, ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Dwi wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau gan ein cyd-Aelod John Griffiths. Oes yna ddatganiadau o fudd gan fy nghyd-Aelodau? Nac oes. Diolch yn fawr. Er mwyn sicrhau bod pawb yn deall, os yw rhywbeth yn mynd o'i le a dwi'n gorfod gadael y cyfarfod achos bod yna issues technegol neu beth bynnag, mae David Melding, yn garedig iawn, wedi cytuno i gadeirio tra fy mod i'n trio ailymuno â'r cyfarfod.
Good afternoon and a very warm welcome to fellow Members and witnesses to this meeting of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee of the Senedd. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting, however, is broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference. A transcript of the meeting will be published as usual. In addition to those things that we have to do in terms of conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place.
The meeting will be bilingual, with simultaneous interpretation available from Welsh to English. I have received apologies from our fellow Member John Griffiths. Are there any declarations of interest from fellow Members? Okay, there are none. And just for the record, if anything goes wrong and I do have to drop out of the meeting because of technical reasons or any other reasons, David Melding has kindly agreed to temporarily chair the meeting whilst I try and rejoin.
Felly, gwnawn ni symud nawr i eitem 2 ar yr agenda, sef sesiwn dystiolaeth ar impact y feirws ar newyddiaduriaeth a'r cyfryngau lleol yng Nghymru. Croeso cynnes i'n tystion. Gwnaf i jest ofyn i chi gyflwyno'ch hunain. Stephen yn gyntaf.
So, we will move on now to item 2 on the agenda, which is an evidence session on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on journalism and local media in Wales. A very warm welcome to our witnesses. If I could just ask you to introduce yourselves. Stephen, first of all.
Just say who you are and where you're from.
Yes. Stephen Cushion. I'm a professor at Cardiff University.
I'm Emma Meese. I'm the director of community journalism at Cardiff University and under the umbrella of community journalism is the Centre for Community Journalism and the Independent Community News Network, which is the UK's only representative body for independent news publishers in the UK.
Diolch am y gwahoddiad i gyfrannu. Fy enw i ydy Ifan Morgan Jones. Rydw i yma heddiw yn rhinwedd fy swydd yn ddarthlithydd mewn newyddiaduraeth ym Mhrifysgol Bangor, a dwi hefyd yn gyn-olygydd gwefan Golwg360 ac yn sylfaenydd a golygydd gwefan Nation.Cymru.
Thank you for the invitation to join today. My name is Ifan Morgan Jones. I am here today as a lecturer in journalism at Bangor University, and I am former editor of Golwg360 and the founder and editor of Nation.Cymru.
Diolch yn fawr iawn i'r tri ohonoch chi. Yn wahanol i'n harfer ni fel pwyllgor, lle dŷn ni'n mynd yn syth, fel arfer, i gwestiynau, dŷn ni'n mynd i roi cyfle i'r tri thyst heddiw i roi cyflwyniad byr neu roi rhai sylwadau cyn inni symud mewn i gwestiynau. So, os caf i ofyn i Stephen Cushion yn gyntaf i wneud ei gyflwyniad, neu i siarad â ni, neu sut bynnag dŷch chi am ddefnyddio'r 10 munud sydd gyda chi. Stepehn, drosodd i chi.
Thank you very much to all three of you. Unlike our usual practice as a committee, where we move immediately to questions, we have given all three witnesses an opportunity today to give a brief presentation, or to make some opening remarks before we move to questions. So, if I could ask Stephen Cushion to give his brief presentation or to speak to us, or however you want to use the five or 10 minutes that you have available. Stephen, over to you.
Hello, can you hear me okay?
Okay. Sorry, there was a delay with the translation, so I wasn't sure. I sent on some slides ahead of the meeting. There's a lot of data and context I could provide to this, but, obviously, within five to 10 minutes, I'll kind of cut to the chase, and then, hopefully, if you've got specific questions, you can ask those within the session.
Thank you very much. The slides have been shared with Members, and we'll have an opportunity to refer back to those as we discuss the evidence as well. So, thank you, Stephen, that's useful. Thank you.
The study that we did was a study that looked very specifically at UK network news and how they've reported the lockdown over the last few months. As part of that, we've carried out a small bit of audience research too, which I'll share with you this afternoon. It's a much bigger project about misinformation that started at the beginning of the year, but, obviously, when the pandemic occurred, we changed focus quite quickly and we very much were looking to explore misinformation in the context of pandemic reporting. And really, it was a kind of study that looked at fake news and debates around that, rather than the issues around devolution, which we'll get on to.
There was a six-week study that we did that was a diary study, for which we recruited 200 people across the UK to fill out entries twice a week throughout April and May, asking them questions about what news they're consuming, how much trust they have in different journalists and their knowledge and understanding of different policies and different news stories. And as part of that too, we're monitoring the UK evening bulletins to look at the way in which they're presenting the pandemic and so on.
So, as we were getting going on the project we didn't—as I say, we weren't really focusing on coverage of devolution, we were focusing much more broadly about that—[Interruption.] Sorry, there was an interruption there, so I'll carry on. As part of that, we recognised quite soon that there was quite a lot of confusion around the devolved measures and the differences across the UK, and also the coverage could've been a lot clearer in its presentation across the evening bulletins.
So, as part of that study that we did at the beginning of May, we asked people, just generally: who's in charge of the lockdown measures—is it the UK Government or is it the UK Government and the devolved nations? Half of people incorrectly just thought it was the UK Government. They could get things like—they knew that schools were going back in England, that people could exercise once a day and meet other people and exercise once a day, but they didn't know that there were differences across Scotland and Wales in terms of staying in your local environment. You've probably heard news stories about one woman that was in Birmingham, who took her son out to the beach one day, and then was told to go back by various police officers, and she didn't realise that Wales was a different country.
Also in that period of time, we showed them the UK Government's new guidance to stay alert rather than stay home, and we found nearly half of people, again, didn't realise that was only England only; a third, actually, thought it was UK-wide Governments. We also just generally asked them: do they have confidence when they're looking at local information about them in the UK media? And a lot of people were saying how confused they were about media messaging, Government messaging; very specific comments, unprompted, about the confusion around the nations and what's relevant, what isn't relevant. So, they were looking for a lot more clarity.
As part of that, as a kind of response to that, we thought we would start to look more systematically at coverage across the main UK broadcasters, looking at just the major announcements from the UK Government, which, primarily, related to all four nations at the beginning, but then, into May and June, it was more specifically around England. That was 23 March, 16 April, 28 May and 10 June. And we broke up the analysis by exploring the headlines at the beginning, and if that clarity was there about the devolved relevance or not. Also, if there was a kind of introduction before a package or a live two-way, and then, actually, in the item itself, whether there was any clarity around the geographical relevance of a particular policy.
So, we looked at nearly 200 units of analysis—that opportunity for a journalist to convey that information. The first date we looked at, on 23 March, was a big announcement. It was an announcement about only exercising once a day, about the closing of non-essential shops across the UK. Now, it was framed very much as a UK decision, but, actually, obviously, as you would know better than I, it was an agreement across the four nations. But the devolved bodies weren't mentioned at all in any of the coverage that we looked at. In fact, it was very kind of individualised, if you like. It was, 'The Prime Minister felt, clearly, he had no option' or 'The Government is sprinting to keep up with the virus'. So, it was very singular—UK Government—and it was almost like the devolved institutions were kind of airbrushed out of coverage. And it's important to bear in mind, at that point in time, the BBC News at Six and BBC News at Ten were getting upwards of 20 million viewers a week and people were extremely attentive to news at that particular time.
We also looked on 16 April again, which was an extension of the lockdown, and we found a similar thing. It was very much the framing of a UK-wide decision, very few references to the—well, if any, actually, within the BBC we looked at that day—references to the devolved nations. It was very singular again to UK Government. And also we just took a very quick look at the headlines the following day on newspapers, across the main UK newspapers, and, again, all the English-produced ones, you know, there was very little clarity that it was relevant only to England, and, often, with no geographical reference at all. If there was, it was just a general UK focus.
Things changed a bit on 28 May, when it was announced that groups of six of people could meet in England. They changed the framing of it, so rather than being 'in' the UK, it was 'across' the UK. So, it was kind of alluding to the fact that there were differences going on. And within headlines as well, there was a prefix of 'in England' that was present much more in headlines. But, occasionally, the headlines miss out that 'in England' or in live two-ways. It's not explicitly spelt out, those differences.
There were occasions when that was present. There was one ITV News at Ten package that very clearly walked the viewer through the differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but that was quite rare that that happened.
And then on 10 June, the last date we looked at, which was about the announcement of support bubbles, again, 'in England' is referenced, but then when you get into packages, sometimes live two-ways, it becomes very much a UK and then it lapses into a UK Government decision, and England and the UK become kind of used interchangeably, without a huge amount of clarity there.
So, if we look back over the four dates that we looked at between March and June, we see a shift from the UK to England, but limited references to devolution. This opens up the question of how explicit should UK news media be. If they say 'UK', that can be inaccurate; if they don't give a geographical reference, then that's sloppy. It's not necessarily inaccurate, but it doesn't tell and educate the viewer. Implicit references are now much more common, where you say 'in England', but we've always recommended that if you really want to educate and inform a viewer, you really need to be quite clear-cut and explicitly spell out the differences by naming England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so a viewer can see if something's relevant or is not relevant.
Well, that's where we're at at the moment, and we're going to carry on with the analysis over the next few weeks.
That's really helpful. Thank you very much, Stephen. Emma.
Emma Meese, eich tro chi nesaf.
Emma Meese, your turn next.
I think, following on from what Stephen was saying there about the confusion over what rules and regulations affect different people, when you get news that is reported from your local independent news outlet, then you are very much getting news and information that is for your community. So, they will obviously have reference to what's happening in Wales as a whole, but it's very much what's happening on your doorstep. So, we've seen a huge, huge increase in demand. So, the positive we can take out of the pandemic is the resurgence in interest in local news. We've seen record traffic to local news websites—in some cases doubling, sometimes trebling. So, it shows there's a real appetite, that when it comes down to it, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, it shows there was a real appetite from people wanting to know, 'How is this going to affect me?' This is what we all want to know when it comes to local news, 'Well, how does it affect me?'
So, we've been incredibly lucky. I must commend the Welsh Government for their action in supporting independent community journalism in Wales. So, following on from—there was a fund a few years ago that came from conversations from an inquiry by this committee where £100,000 was made available over two years. So, it was £200,000 in total to help and support the independent news sector in Wales. A little bit of time was spent in working out how that money was going to be spent, so by the time the fund was eventually made active, the £200,000 pot was then there to be spent over the course of a year.
So, to the credit of independent news publishing in Wales, they didn't get really greedy and they really thought about, 'How can I utilise this money to help my community, to help my readership, to help my publication?' So, there was some money. They were on target to spend in the region of £100,000 per year, so that £100,000 was spent during the year, and then there was some of that money left over in the pot. So, we contacted Welsh Government, and, to their credit, that money was then transferred over by the form of a grant of £8,500, and that has been an absolute lifeline that has saved the independent community news sector in Wales. Welsh Government are the only Government across the UK, so far, to have been so forward-thinking in handing that support out. So, I'd like to extend my thanks there.
I think it's really important that we recognise the value that independent news brings, and I'm absolutely not saying, 'Give to one sector, not another.' At the moment, what we've seen, particularly on a UK level—it's been the most frustrating few months of my life. What we've seen is, rather than feeding all the fish in the pond, the funding and the money have gone to the big fish, and the small fish have been left without anything. So, the large corporations have been in receipt of huge sums of UK Government money, while smaller, independent news publications have been left with nothing.
So, we've surveyed—we have 113 members across the UK now, and we did a survey asking how much money and financial support they've had. So, from UK Government, 95 per cent of our members have not received one single penny to date at all whatsoever from any source. They fall through the cracks of what's relevant. So, that money in Wales has been an absolute lifeline, as I've said. Why is it important? It's really important, because if we look at what's happening at the moment with job losses with large organisations—we're looking at BBC, we're looking at Newsquest, we're looking at Reach; very, very grim statistics—again, when organisations are not invested in our country, not invested in our communities, then there's a real concern, which is what we seem to be seeing at the moment, that these financial decisions and on-the-ground decisions are taken purely on a business level, not on an impact to community and democracy level.
So, by supporting independent news, what we are ensuring is that we are maintaining plurality of voice, because if we lose the independent sector, then pretty much overnight you lose all plurality of voice, and the impact on democracy doesn't even bear thinking about.
So, there's work that we're going to continue doing on a UK level, but I would urge Welsh Government to continue to be trailblazers, because Scottish Government are now looking at an advertising campaign in the same way as UK Government did. That money hasn't materialised yet, but they have given confirmation that independent news publishers are also going to be included. So, just to give you a really brief overview on a UK level, there was a £35 million pot of money given for an 'All in, all together' public health campaign. So, this was purported to be open to everybody. However, in its wisdom—I don't know why—this money was only made available to printed titles. At the start of the pandemic, pretty much, print circulation figures just fell through the floor because people could not access printed newspapers, because all the usual news outlets were closed, all the shops were closed, people weren't travelling by bus or by train, and you could only access this money if you had a daily or a weekly printed newspaper. So, these are obviously big concerns for us in terms of where does that leave independent news.
I know that this is something that's going to be a focus moving forward, and it's really important that we really protect this in Wales, because we already have a situation now where, if we look at Reach, they're looking to centralise a lot of the news output and put together a kind of one copy fits all. Well, one copy doesn't fit all, so as we can see through the pandemic, people want to know, 'Well, how does this affect me? What's happening in my local shops? Which ones are adhering to social distancing? Which ones are not? Is my local swimming pool opening?' So, it's far more important that we make sure that we are vested in local communities, with local news, with people who live in those communities, because otherwise we will never penetrate the messaging that Stephen was talking about, if we keep talking about national level.
So, we had an example with the Wrexham Leader, for example. There was a big issue when you have big corporations that take UK Government money, for example, for this 'All in, all together' campaign when the messaging changed in England, but didn't change in Wales, to be the 'Control the virus' slogan rather than 'Stay home, save lives'. All over the Wrexham Leader in print and all over the website was the new English messaging. Now, this is a local newspaper for the people of Wrexham, and yet the messaging, the advertising messaging that was out there—. And that's what happens when you get top-level decisions being made outside of Wales. At a business level, they were just, 'Yes, we'll take the money, yes, we'll publish it', and that advertising messaging was completely incorrect, inaccurate for Wales.
So, moving forward, we would urge Welsh Government to continue with support for the independent sector. We can talk about the various ways of doing that, but one quick and easy way that we see that this could potentially help, without you having to find any extra money, is by looking at the issue of statutory notices. So, at the last inquiry, one of the recommendations that was made was to look at the issue of statutory notices and digitising, that it didn't have to be in print. I think this is as good a time as any to look at how we look at public notices, because I know there are various reasons—some of them have to be published, some don't, at the moment—to do with housing and planning and things like that. So, that's something that we could look at in terms of levelling the playing field, because at the moment there's a real unfair advantage for the big organisations, the big corporates, because they get access to furlough money, they've had access to the advertising money, and yet these job cuts are still being made. So I think it's important that we stress that, in Wales, all of our members are continuing to publish. They're publishing really high-quality regular content. All of them have seen web traffic double, and it's really important that we support this, moving forward. And I think one of the ways that we could look at that is looking at the issue of statutory notices. So it's not finding extra money, but again it's levelling the playing field. Because for Newsquest in April, 25 per cent of their income came from statutory notices. So that's a substantial unfair advantage that they have. That's not the stat for Newsquest in Wales, that's for Newsquest across the board. So if you think of that on top of furlough money, on top of business rates relief, on top of advertising money, that's a huge unfair advantage that the large corporates have. Right, I won't carry on talking.
Thank you. I was just about to say that we're getting close to time up. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you. Ifan.
Hello. Thank you. I'd just like to say to begin with apologies if I drop out of the meeting—I have once already—I'm on rural Ceredigion broadband here, but hopefully that won't happen.
Gwnaf i siarad yn Gymraeg, os yn bosib. I ddechrau, hoffwn i dalu teyrnged i'r holl newyddiadurwyr penigamp yn Reach, Newsquest a'r BBC ar adeg hynod ansicr iddyn nhw. Mae'n bwysig cofio bod yna lawer o bobl sydd â morgeisi a rhent i'w talu a theuluoedd i'w cynnal wrth galon y cwestiynau rydym ni'n eu trafod heddiw. Eironi'r cyfan, wrth gwrs, ydy bod coronafeirws wedi profi fwy nag erioed y gwerth i Gymru o gael ei chyfryngau ei hun tra ar yr un pryd wedi gwneud mwy nag unrhyw beth arall i niweidio'r cyfryngau hynny.
O ran effaith coronafeirws ar y sector, beth sydd angen ei bwysleisio dwi'n credu yw bod yr argyfwng yma wedi bod yn dod ers amser hir. Mae wedi bod yn 20 mlynedd, ers dechrau datganoli mewn gwirionedd, ers i newyddiaduraeth ar-lein ddechrau disodli mathau mwy proffidiol o newyddiaduraeth fel print, ac yn anffodus, er gwaethaf datganoli, dwi ddim yn meddwl ein bod ni fel cenedl wedi gwneud ryw lawer i fynd i'r afael â'r broblem yma. A'r hyn mae coronafeirws wedi ei wneud mewn gwirionedd, yn fy marn i, ydy prysuro'r broses gan tua dwy neu dair blynedd oedd yn digwydd beth bynnag. Ond efallai fod yna rai manteision yn hynny o beth o ran y ffaith bod y sefyllfa wedi mynd mor argyfyngus heddiw y byddwn ni'n deffro'n hunain, mewn gwirionedd, i'r brys a'r angen i weithredu i wneud rhywbeth am hyn, achos dwi'n meddwl ei fod yn fygythiad go iawn i ddatganoli ei hun.
Rydym ni'n gwybod o ymchwil academaidd Stephen ac academyddion eraill, a'r polau piniwn, fod pobl Cymru ar y cyfan yn gymharol anwybodus ynglŷn â datganoli yng Nghymru, ac mae hynny'n ganlyniad uniongyrchol, i raddau, i wendid y cyfryngau Cymreig. Gyda newidiadau yn Reach yn arbennig, a'r awgrym y gallai cangen Gymreig y cwmni gael ei chyfuno gyda changen canolbarth Lloegr, dwi'n meddwl bod yna berygl gwirioneddol y bydd hyd yn oed llai o gynnwys gwefannau a phapurau newydd y cwmni yn berthnasol i Gymru o hyn ymlaen, a bydd hynny yn ei dro wedyn yn creu dryswch pellach ynglŷn â beth sydd wedi ei ddatganoli i Gymru a beth sydd ddim wedi ei ddatganoli. A gyda bygythiadau lu yn dechrau ymddangos rŵan i ddatganoli ei hun, yn dechrau amlygu eu hunain, dwi'n meddwl bod angen cryfhau'r cyfryngau yng Nghymru os ydyn ni'n disgwyl i bobl ddeall beth sydd yn y fantol yn hynny o beth.
Dwi'n meddwl, fel roedd Emma yn ei ddweud, y newyddion da, dwi'n meddwl, ydy does yna ddim diffyg galw am newyddion sy'n berthnasol i Gymru. Mae yna fwy o bobl—. Gwnes i fy noethuriaeth ar y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg, a dwi'n meddwl bod yna fwy o bobl heddiw yn darllen newyddion am Gymru nag erioed o'r blaen yn hanes Cymru. Ym mis Mawrth, roedd yna sôn bod WalesOnline, er enghraifft, wedi cyrraedd 50 miliwn o ymweliadau tudalen mewn mis yn unig. Eto, fel roedd Emma'n dweud, dwi wedi clywed gan sawl gwasanaeth newyddion arall bod eu ffigurau darllenwyr ar-lein wedi cynyddu'n sylweddol o ganlyniad i'r argyfwng coronafeirws. Felly mae'n bwysig cofio nad y galw ydy'r broblem, ond yn hytrach y ddarpariaeth—y supply, yn hytrach na'r demand am newyddion am Gymru a newyddion Cymreig.
Y broblem ydy, wrth gwrs, ein bod ni ddim wedi gallu dod o hyd i fodel busnes sydd yn gallu cynnal newyddiaduraeth ar-lein i'r un graddau ag yr oedd mathau traddodiadol o newyddiaduraeth yn ei wneud. Er enghraifft, mae 80 y cant o incwm Reach yn dal i ddod o brint, yn hytrach nag ar-lein ar hyn o bryd, er bod yna gynulleidfaoedd anferth yn defnyddio eu gwefannau nhw o gymharu efo faint sy'n darllen eu papurau newydd nhw.
A beth sydd angen inni ei bwysleisio, dwi'n credu, ydy bod cyflwr y cyfryngau newyddion yng Nghymru hyd yn oed yn waeth nag y mae'n ymddangos ar yr wyneb, oherwydd os ydych chi'n edrych ar restr o'r cyfryngau newyddion yng Nghymru, mae fel pe bai yna amrywiaeth mawr o ffynonellau newyddion yno, ac mae hynny'n awgrymu plwraliaeth sydd ddim yn bodoli, mewn gwirionedd. Oherwydd yr hyn sydd gyda chi mewn llawer o achosion yn y gwasanaethau hyn ydy eu bod nhw wedi crebachu rŵan i un neu ddau aelod o staff sy'n gyfrifol am bapur newydd cyfan, neu wefannau cyfan, ac weithiau mwy nag un papur newydd a gwefan. Mae bron yn amhosibl iddyn nhw wneud unrhyw fath o newyddiaduraeth ymchwiliadol go iawn. Yr hyn sy'n digwydd yn lle hynny ydy mai'r hyn maen nhw'n ei wneud, mewn gwirionedd, yn aml iawn ydy prosesu gwybodaeth—dewis a dethol datganiadau i'r wasg maen nhw'n credu fydd yn berthnasol i'w darllenwyr nhw.
I will speak in Welsh. First of all, I'd like to pay tribute to all the excellent journalists within Reach, Newsquest and the BBC at a very uncertain time for them. It's important to note that there are people with mortgages and rent to pay and families to support, and they're at the heart of everything we're discussing today. The irony of all of this, of course, is that coronavirus has proven the value for Wales of having its own media, whilst simultaneously doing more than anything else to damage those media.
In terms of the impact of coronavirus on the sector, what needs to be emphasised is that this crisis has been coming for a long time. It's been 20 years, since the beginning of devolution, since online journalism started to displace more profitable types of journalism, such as print, and unfortunately, despite devolution, I don't think we as a nation have done much to tackle this problem. What coronavirus has done, if truth be told, in my view, is to hasten by two or three years processes that were already in train. But there may also be some benefits from the point of view of the fact that the situation is so critical today that it'll actually wake us up to the need to take action and the need to address this, because I think it's a very real threat to devolution itself.
We know from academic research done by Stephen and other academics, and opinion polls, that the people of Wales are, generally speaking, quite ignorant about devolution in Wales, and that is a direct result of the weakness of Welsh media. With changes within Reach, particularly, and the suggestion that the Welsh branch could be merged with the midlands branch in England, I think there is a very real risk that there will be even less content on the company's website and in its newspapers that will be relevant to Wales from here on in, and this will create even further confusion as to what is devolved to Wales and what is not devolved to Wales. With the various threats starting to appear to devolution itself, I do think that we need to strengthen the media in Wales if we expect people to understand what's at stake.
I think, as Emma said earlier, the good news is that there is no absence of demand for news that's relevant to Wales. I did my doctorate on the nineteenth century, and I think there are more people today reading news about Wales than was ever the case in Welsh history. In March, there was talk that WalesOnline had 50 million page views in one month. And, again, as Emma said, I've heard from a number of other news services that their online readership has increased significantly as a result of the coronavirus crisis. So it's important to bear in mind that demand isn't the problem, it's the provision. It's the supply, rather than the demand for news about Wales and Welsh news.
The problem, of course, is that we haven't been able to find a business model that can sustain online news to the same extent as traditional news output had done. For example, 80 per cent of Reach's income still comes from print, rather than online, although there are huge audiences accessing their website as compared to the numbers actually reading their newspapers.
What we need to emphasise, I think, is that the state of news media in Wales is even worse than it appears on the surface, because if you look at a list of news media in Wales, there appears to be a whole range of news sources there, which suggests plurality that doesn't truly exist. Because what you have in a number of cases in these services is that they have now shrunk to one or two members of staff who are responsible for whole newspapers or whole websites, and occasionally it's more than one newspaper and website. It's almost impossible for them to do any kind of real investigative journalism. So, what they do very often is to process information—they select press releases that they think might be relevant to their readership.
Yn bennaf, yr hyn sydd gyda chi mewn llawer o wefannau a phapurau newydd yw llawer o'r un cynnwys, oherwydd maen nhw i gyd yn derbyn yr un wybodaeth drwy'r un datganiadau i'r wasg, a'r un wybodaeth maen nhw'n ei dderbyn. Mae hynny'n golygu, yn anffodus, fod lleisiau'r rheini sydd ddim yn gallu fforddio cyflogi arbenigwyr cysylltiadau cyhoeddus ddim yn cael eu clywed o gwbl yn aml iawn, a dim ond llond llaw o newyddiadurwyr yng Nghymru sydd â'r amser a'r adnoddau i gynnal newyddiaduraeth ymchwiliadol, a thyllu am straeon, ac yn y blaen.
Er enghraifft, mae ambell i newyddiadurwr wedi cysylltu â fi o rai papurau newydd yn y canolbarth yn dweud eu bod nhw, ar y cyfan, wedi cael eu rhoi ar furlough a bod y papur yn bennaf yn cynnwys copiau o ddatganiadau i'r wasg a hefyd gwaith newyddiadurwyr democratiaeth lleol y BBC, yn lle gwaith y newyddiadurwyr sydd fel arfer yn gweithio i'r papurau yna. Mae hyn yn golygu bod y sffêr gyhoeddus yng Nghymru wedi chwalu yn llwyr, i bob pwrpas, oherwydd bod y ddolen adborth yna—y feedback loop—rhwng gwleidyddion a'r bobl wedi torri. Dyw pobl ddim yn gwybod beth mae gwleidyddion yn ei wneud, a dyw'r gwleidyddion ddim yn clywed barn y bobl wedi ei adlewyrchu ar eu gwasanaethau newyddion nhw.
Felly, o ran beth fuaswn i'n ei wneud am hyn, mi fuaswn i'n awgrymu'r canlynol. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen dechrau ystyried newyddiaduraeth o safon yn wasanaeth hanfodol yng Nghymru. Gall democratiaeth ddim gweithio hebddo fo, ac mae hynny'n cael sgil effaith ar bob dim arall, o'r economi i'r amgylchedd, ac unrhyw beth sy'n ddibynnol ar ein democratiaeth ni'n gweithio. Ac mae'n amlwg nad ydy newyddiaduraeth ddigidol am ddim wedi'i chynnal gan hysbysebion yn fodel busnes hyfyw i gynnal y math o newyddiaduraeth ymchwiliadol yna sydd ei hangen.
Felly, un opsiwn, dwi'n meddwl, ydy newyddiaduraeth ddigidol yng Nghymru i fynd tu ôl i wal dalu—ryw fath o pay wall—a gofyn i bobl dalu ffi am gael mynediad at newyddion. Dwi'n meddwl mai'r perygl yn hynny yw y bydd yn creu sefyllfa lle y bydd newyddiaduraeth Brydeinig wedi'i chefnogi gan hysbysebion yno am ddim ac yn hyfyw i bobl, ond bydd newyddiaduraeth Gymraeg y tu ôl i wal dalu ddim. Ac o ganlyniad i hynny, mi fydd pobl yn troi fwyfwy at newyddiaduraeth Brydeinig sydd ddim yn talu ryw lawer o sylw ac yn deall y gwahaniaethau rhwng Cymru a gweddill y Deyrnas Unedig.
Yn fy marn i felly, mae angen rhyw fath o gefnogaeth gyhoeddus ar newyddiaduraeth yng Nghymru, efallai wedi ei hariannu gan y Senedd neu gan Lywodraeth Cymru, ond mae'n hynod o bwysig os ydy hynny'n digwydd ei fod o'n cael ei wneud mewn ffordd sydd yn annibynnol o unrhyw fath o ymyrraeth wleidyddol. Mae angen bod yn gwbl annibynnol oddi wrth y gwleidyddion hynny sy'n dosbarthu'r arian rhag ofn y bydd o'n cael unrhyw fath o effaith ar ba fath o newyddiaduraeth sy'n cael ei chynhyrchu gan y newyddiadurwyr yna.
Felly, beth fuaswn i'n awgrymu ydy rhyw fath o gorff annibynnol sydd wedi ei staffio yn ddelfrydol gan bobl annibynnol sydd â phrofiad fel newyddiadurwyr ac yn rhedeg gwasanaethau cyfryngau i eistedd arno fo a phenderfynu lle mae'r math o arian yna yn cael ei ddosbarthu. Dylai'r arian yna fynd nid at gwmnïoedd er elw fel Reach ac eraill sydd yn bodoli tu allan i Gymru ac yn talu budd-daliadau, ond yn hytrach i gwmnïoedd annibynnol nid-er-elw cydweithredol sydd yn eiddo i newyddiadurwyr neu bobl eraill o fewn Cymru. Ac yn fy marn i, fe fyddai'n werth cael ambell un o'r rheini wedi ei ariannu'n dda, gyda'r gallu i gynnal newyddiaduraeth o safon, na degau o bapurau newydd a gwasanaethau newyddion sydd ddim yn gallu cynnal newyddiaduraeth ymchwiliadol. Dwi'n meddwl mai'r peth gwaethaf y gallwn ni ei wneud, efallai, ydy defnyddio arian cyhoeddus er mwyn ceisio cynnal y model presennol, sy'n ddibynnol i raddau ar beth oedd wedi digwydd yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg a'r ugeinfed ganrif o ran datblygiadau modelau papurau newydd, ac yn y blaen.
Dwi'n meddwl bod o'n bwysig hefyd, o ran meddwl am goronafeirws, i bwysleisio bod rhai pethau cadarnhaol wedi dod allan o COVID-19, ac un o'r rheini dwi'n meddwl ydy'r cynadleddau i'r wasg rheolaidd gan Lywodraeth Cymru sy'n cael eu darlledu ar-lein. Dwi'n meddwl bod o'n arbennig o gadarnhaol bod y rhain wedi cael eu hagor i newyddiadurwyr ledled Cymru a gweddill y Deyrnas Unedig trwy Zoom, a dwi'n meddwl bod o'n bwysig, beth bynnag sy'n digwydd gyda'r pandemig o hyn ymlaen, fod hynny yn parhau.
Dwi'n credu hefyd bod lle i fod yn fwy agored ar faterion tu hwnt i'r coronafeirws. Dwi wedi clywed gan nifer o newyddiadurwyr eu bod nhw'n cael trafferth cael cyfweliadau ac atebion i gwestiynau gan Llywodraeth Cymru a sefydliadau gwleidyddol eraill yng Nghymru. A dwi'n meddwl, yn y pen draw, os ydym ni'n mynd i gael cyfryngau annibynnol cryf yma yng Nghymru, fod angen sefydliadau arnom ni sy'n agored ac yn barod i gael eu craffu arnyn nhw hefyd.
Felly, diolch yn fawr iawn i chi.
What you have with many newspapers and websites is that they are recycling the same content, because they are all receiving the same information—the same press releases and the same information. That means, unfortunately, that the voices of those who can't afford to employ public relations experts aren't heard at all, and it's only a handful of journalists in Wales that have the time and resources to maintain proper investigative journalism and to seek stories, and to dig for stories.
For example, some journalists from mid Wales have been in touch with me to say that they've been put on furlough and that the paper mainly just included press releases and BBC local democracy journalists providing news locally, rather than the output of the journalists usually employed by the newspapers. That means that the public sphere in Wales has been destroyed, because that feedback loop between politicians and the people is broken. People don't know what their politicians are doing, and the politicians don't hear the views of the people reflected on their news services.
In terms of how I'd address this, I would suggest the following. I think that we need to start thinking about quality journalism in Wales as an essential service. Democracy can't work without it, and that has a knock-on effect on everything else, from the economy to the environment, and anything that relies on a working democracy. And it's clear that free digital journalism, maintained by advertising, isn't a viable business model to maintain the kind of journalism that we need.
So, one option, I think, is digital journalism in Wales going behind some sort of pay wall and asking people to pay a fee for accessing the news. But I think the risk there is that it'll create a situation where UK journalism supported by advertising will be free of charge and accessible, but Welsh journalism behind a pay wall won't be. And as a result of that, people will turn to UK-wide media that pays little attention and doesn't understand the differences between Wales and the rest of the UK.
In my view, therefore, we do need some sort of public support for journalism in Wales, perhaps funded by the Senedd or the Welsh Government, but it's extremely important that if that happens that it is done in a way that is independent of any sort of political interference. It has to be entirely independent of the politicians who distribute the funding in case it has any kind of impact on the kind of journalism produced by those journalists.
So, what I would suggest is some kind of independent body, staffed ideally by independent people who have experience as journalists and running media services, so that they could decide where that funding should be distributed. That funding should be provided not to for-profit companies such as Reach and others who exist outside of Wales, but rather to independent not-for-profit companies, co-operatives that would be in the ownership of journalists or others within Wales. And in my view, it would be better to have a few of those properly funded, with the ability to sustain quality journalism, rather than having dozens of newspapers and websites that can't actually provide quality journalism. I think the worst thing that we can do is to use public funds in order to maintain the current model, which is based to a certain extent on what happened in the nineteenth and twentieth century in terms of newspaper models, and so on.
I think it's also important, in terms of thinking about coronavirus, to emphasise that there have been some positives that have emerged from COVID-19, and one of those I think is the regular press conferences by the Welsh Government, which are broadcast online. I think it's exceptionally positive that these have been opened out to journalists the length and breadth of Wales and the UK through Zoom, and I think it's important, whatever happens with the pandemic from here on in, that that should continue.
I also believe that there is scope to be more open on issues beyond coronavirus. I've heard from a number of journalists that they are having difficulty in getting interviews and answers to questions from Welsh Government and other political institutions in Wales. And I think, ultimately, if we are to have strong, independent media in Wales, then we do need institutions that are open and willing to be scrutinised.
So, thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr iawn i Ifan, a diolch eto i Stephen ac Emma. Oes cwestiynau gan Aelodau? Carwyn Jones, ac wedyn Mick Antoniw.
Thank you very much, Ifan, and thank you also to Stephen and Emma. Do Members have questions? Carwyn Jones and then Mick Antoniw.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Thank you, all, for your contributions. I'm just wondering really—you all identified a problem in terms of news provision in Wales. I'm interested in each of you and your views, particularly, on how that problem might be resolved. How do we make sure that our people have access to news that's relevant to them?
Who'd like to start? Stephen, then. If we can open Stephen's microphone, please.
I'd firstly say that I don't think there's one easy solution to that. I suspect that perhaps the three presentations are starting to get at some kind of solution. One thing that probably wasn't mentioned either is education in schools, and drilling that in from an early age as well, because I think there's only so much the media can do within this. But, from a point of view of UK network news, I think more can be done in terms of reminding broadcasters about their commitment to the four nations. I've been involved in regular reviews over the years with media regulators, and we've done analysis before we did the reviews, and after the reviews. And we do see quite a difference in terms of the volume of coverage, in terms of the quality, in terms of comparing the nations. There's a greater sensitivity from journalists as well, particularly health and education specialists. So, from that point of view, I think it's constantly worth engaging with broadcasters, engaging with regulators, to ensure that that's constantly on the agenda. It's been brought into sharper focus because of the lockdown, but it needs to continue.
And one last point is that I worry that, if we focus too much on just producing a kind of online newspaper, or online digital site, in Wales, it may well make people that are already informed even more informed, but the people that aren't particularly that attentive to the news, it's probably just going to pass them by, and they'll continue to tune in to the 10 o'clock news on BBC and ITV and Channel 4, and they could be talking past each other. So, I think it's important to still recognise that the UK-wide media—. I haven't mentioned newspapers as well; perhaps—I haven't done this myself, but engaging with regulators like IMPRESS and IPSO, and maybe talking about it as an accuracy issue. Emma mentioned the Wrexham—and I didn't know that story about Wrexham. That's extraordinary, that advertisers are allowed to advertise false information during a public crisis—that's something that should be brought to the attention of regulators within the UK.
I think anything where we invest in an infrastructure that supports grass-roots journalism, starting from the community—. I think the problem is when you start from the top down, and you start with the business, where you're trying to line shareholder's pockets, and that's where you start from—it's got to come from the communities up. So, I think if we have an infrastructure in place that supports local, grass-roots journalism, then we're on the right path. That information for communities is really important.
Now, we at the Centre for Community Journalism spent the best part of five years working intensively in Wales with 10 different communities—so, setting up, either from scratch, either, where there was a news blackhole, creating a new news website, or working with ones intensely that were on the cusp of maybe closing their doors, to see if we could help and support grass-roots journalism. And what we found—and this is from sitting on Thursday evenings in freezing cold church halls with people in the community and everything else—is that, even on a community-to-community level, people access news and information in a different way. So, when I was in the Rhondda, for example, Facebook was the be-all and end-all, and we could have lost the website and lost Twitter and everything else, but their way of communicating was very valuable via Facebook. Now, in Cardiff, it was via Twitter. So, even having that local knowledge that local journalists, with their local organisations, will know, how do you best break through that filter bubble so that you don't have, as Ifan was saying—and Stephen—those who are informed becoming more informed and missing out on other people? So, once you start having news and information that is relevant for your community, and then you start getting people saying, 'Oh, where did you hear that?', 'Oh, it was in such and such', then you start to grow and build your audience from the grass roots up.
So, we are—I'm not blowing our own trumpet, but—incredibly lucky here in Wales, that we, as the UK centre, are based in Wales, and we're very much focused obviously across the UK, but we have a passion and an interest in Wales. So, going back to what Stephen was saying about education, we have created, along with NEU Cymru, a 10-week programme, which fits in with the digital competency framework, it fits in with the universities' civic mission—a 10-week programme, education programme, that we're just having the finishing touches of having it translated into Welsh, and it's step-by-step, 'What is news?', 'What's the difference between news and a story?', 'Where do you get your news?' It gets children and young people to start to question where—. Just because you read something online doesn't mean it's true—what's the source of it? And, if they share things themselves, what the implications of that are. At the very best, we can get fantastic journalists for the future, and also what we would love to see is really engaged citizens of the future that are really engaged in news and information, and I think that is—. There are medium to long-term goals and, obviously, that's where that fits in. But, in the short term, it's coming up with a system and an infrastructure where we have to start focusing on grass roots, because—.
I have to stress as well the investment. When you invest with grass-roots journalists, the money goes so much further. If you give—you know, the £8,500 you've given to independent publications in Wales. So, on average, an independent news publication needs £2,000 a month to survive. And we've seen how much of the £35 million that companies like Newsquest and Reach have had—and JPIMedia and others—and yet they've continued to furlough staff and now they're continuing to do big job cuts. So, the money invested at grass-roots level goes directly into the journalism. So, we'd be very interested in having ongoing conversations and discussions with you on what that might look like, because our vision and our aim would be to almost replicate the success of independent news publishers we already have in Wales, but in other communities. So, if we could get something back into Port Talbot, for example, and get them in other areas where they might have a news deficit, then that would be—. I think that would be—. And also that's getting the messaging out, then, from the Senedd about decisions that have been made at a national level that impact people across Wales.
I think, as Stephen was saying, that education is important. I think there needs to be some kind of—. Especially with votes coming in at 16, now, I think there needs to be some kind of education in our schools, as part of the curriculum, about what the Senedd does, so people naturally, perhaps, turn to the news in Wales for information about health and education and so forth.
As Emma was saying, it's very important, I think, that news is financed at a grass-roots level. That would really put the journalists in charge of the news business, really. So, it's not a top-down thing, and it's not perhaps a company that has little understanding of the unique circumstances in Wales when deciding to cut staff, but actually staff on the ground in Wales being in charge of these news services. How you finance that—either through advertising or through some kind of public subsidy—is something to be discussed. I think, basically, news sites run not for profit and with all the money made ploughed back into the news service itself would be much more doable, really, than the service we have now, where they're run for profit or the good of paying subsidies. So, I think those kinds of developments would be extremely important towards that goal.
Thank you. I'll bring Carwyn back in briefly, and then I'll come to Mick. Carwyn.
Cwestiwn i Ifan, rili. Ifan, ti yw golygydd Nation.Cymru, yntefe? Ydw i'n iawn?
This is a question for Ifan. Now, you're the editor of Nation.Cymru, am I right?
Jest i ofyn cwestiwn ynglŷn â model Nation.Cymru—. Wrth gwrs, y model yw model ar-lein. Oes yna unrhyw—? Wel, ofynnaf i ddim a oes yna gynlluniau i droi mewn i gylchgrawn print; efallai mai hwnna yn rhywbeth fyddech chi ddim moyn ei siario. Ynglŷn â—. Gaf i ofyn yn fwy cyffredinol, te, oes yna ddyfodol i bapurau newydd, sydd ar hyn o bryd ar-lein, i fynd, yn y dyfodol, i gael eu hargraffu? Neu, ydy hynny'n fodel sydd ddim yn mynd i weithio? Dŷn ni i gyd yn clywed bod papurau print yn marw mas. Oes yna gyfle, felly, i bapur newydd fel Nation.Cymru, neu rywun arall, ystyried yn y pendraw cael fersiwn print pob dydd? A ydy hynny'n realistig?
I wanted to ask a question on the Nation.Cymru model and that's an online model. I won't ask you if there are any plans to become a print version. That might be something you wouldn't want to discuss. But can I ask you, in general terms, is there a future for newspapers, which are currently online, to, in future, transition to become print material? Or is that not a model that can work? We've all heard that print media is on its way out. Is there an opportunity for a publication such as Nation.Cymru or someone else to consider having a daily print version? Would that be realistic?
Dwi ddim yn meddwl bod o werth trio gwneud gormod i wrthsefyll y newid technolegol o fynd ar-lein, achos dwi'n meddwl bod y newid technolegol jest yn anochel mewn gwirionedd, a dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi dipyn bach fel dweud wrth bobl y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg i fynd yn ôl at femrwn yn lle papur newydd. Dwi'n meddwl bod y newid yn digwydd, mae arferion pobl yn newid, a does dim llawer o bwynt cwffio hynny.
Ar lefel hyperleol, dwi'n meddwl, ac efallai bydd Emma'n gallu ychwanegu at hyn, dwi'n meddwl efallai bod yna le i bapurau newydd o hyd, oherwydd does yna ddim gymaint o gostau dosbarthu, er enghraifft. Ond, dwi'n meddwl, os ydych chi'n meddwl am Nation.Cymru, mae'n wasanaeth newyddion cenedlaethol, a hyd yn oed yn oes aur y wasg brint yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg, doedd yna ddim papur newydd cenedlaethol yng Nghymru oherwydd bod dosbarthu papur o amgylch y wlad yn gymaint o her. Felly, mae'r newid yna, dwi'n meddwl, i arferion pobl o ddarllen newyddion digidol yn anochel. Rydym ni wedi gweld ers 20 mlynedd y gwerthiant print yn syrthio. Felly, i raddau, y demtasiwn i fi, dwi'n meddwl, o weld Nation.Cymru yn gwneud yn eithaf da fel gwasanaeth digidol—o ran dod â hysbysebion i mewn a ballu—ydy sticio gyda'r trywydd yna.
Ond dwi'n meddwl, efallai, bod yna le, er enghraifft, i gynhyrchu fersiwn print ar gyfer digwyddiadau penodol, lle mae'n hawdd i'w dosbarthu nhw, fel yn yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol neu rywbeth fel yna, felly.
I don't think it's going to be hugely worthwhile to try and withstand the technological change of going online, because I think that's just inevitable, if truth be told, and I do think that it's slightly like telling people in the nineteenth century to go back to parchment rather than newspaper. People's habits change, and there's no real point in fighting that.
At a hyperlocal level, and Emma can add to this, I think there may still be a role for newspapers, because the distribution costs aren't as high, for example. But, if you think of Nation.Cymru, it is a national news service, and, even in the golden age of the print press in the nineteenth century, there was no national newspaper in Wales, because distribution was such a challenge. So, I do think that that change in people's reading habits in terms of digital material is inevitable. We have seen over 20 years print sales falling. So, I think the temptation for me, in seeing Nation.Cymru doing relatively well as a digital service—in bringing in advertising and so on—is to stick with that model.
But I think there might be scope to produce a print version for particular events, where it would be easier to distribute, such as at the National Eisteddfod, for example.
Emma, I can see you want to come in. Briefly, if you can, because I need to turn to questions from other Members. But, yes—croeso.
Really briefly, we are seeing that more small, independent publishers are turning to print than ever. It's an increasing trend. So, if you look in Wales, for example, Richard Gurner, the owner-editor of the Caerphilly Observer, prints a fortnightly newspaper, and, during non-COVID times, he's up to 13,000 printed copies. So, that’s more than the Western Mail, that's more than the Llanelli Star, that's more than Carmarthen Journal. So, there is an appetite there.
I think what COVID has shown is that the existing business model is broken to some extent, in terms of, when you rely on local advertising, when that money dries up—. So, what we've seen is this unprecedented situation where you've got journalists, who are key workers, providing a service that was as valuable to people as any other service that they could have asked for, but, actually, at the same time as their web traffic went like this and the appetite and demand went like this, then their income plummeted like that. So, there's obviously some work that needs to be done there to look at how we fix that.
But, in terms of print, it's the freemium model—it's giving it away for free, funded by advertising. But, definitely, the appetite is there and the trend is showing that more people increasingly are going into print. We do have issues in Wales—there's no printing left in Wales; it's all done in England. But, actually, it's definitely a conversation to be had.
Just a number of comments, because it seems to me that we're in a transitional state—we're not quite out of print, we're not quite into completely into digital. One is growing more than the other, and in various forms. You see resurrections of different types of print. For example, if you go into London, you can't get away from free copies of the Evening Standard that everyone's reading, et cetera. So, where there are masses of population and transport, it probably works; other areas, it doesn't.
Just a few areas that I'm quite interested in, because as Assembly Members, during this COVID—Senedd Members—we've had to deal with literally hundreds and hundreds and thousands of queries, 'What's the policy on this? What's on that?' And we've had to almost try and clarify the Welsh position as opposed to the information that people are getting from different sources, not understanding where it's coming from, to serve that community.
One area that has been very effective, and seems to have massively grown is community radio. I've done a lot; it's been very accurate, very localised. Community radio, though, itself is transforming. Not only has it had a boost, it's also now engaging as community radio in social media, so it is utilising the two together and that has actually been quite phenomenal—the number, the source of information. So, perhaps one area that we ought to be looking at is that transition—the way not just radio per se, but radio as a mixture of social media and radio, is one that really develops into greater sources of information.
The other one is, of course, in terms of the role of Welsh Government within this process, because it's one thing to be complaining about the fact that they haven't mentioned Wales on this or they've done a confusing message on that, but we do not seem to have been quite as aggressive in terms of rebuttal or demanding that media operates within particular standards. So, I was just wondering whether you think that one of the things Government should be doing, almost independent of politically, is just having a sort of accuracy hit that is continually engaging in a proactive way with media over this. Because it seems a lot of what's happening on the media is actually quite sloppy. Sometimes it's very good, then it slips back again, but even that causes confusion.
The other area is, of course, financial support for journalism—the issue of real investigative journalism, which we'll come onto later when we start talking about Reach or whatever. But, you know, challenging democracy is a fundamental part of democratic institutions, particularly in Wales—that you have a quality of journalism that is actually investigative and analytical. And it seems to me that is the area that has disappeared. Once, every paper had an industrial journalist. I don't think there's a single one that actually has one any more, even of the remaining large papers.
And then the very final one is—the point I'd like to make is to follow on the point that I think Ifan or Emma made, and that is education within schools. So, you've got a whole new generation of 16 plus who are going to be participating in elections. Of course, the issue of political or civic education has arisen massively within the passage of the legislation, but it seems to me that there is still an issue there in terms of journalism, access to information, that is probably not properly being addressed for the younger generation coming through who will be participating in the democratic system soon. So, a mixture of questions there, and comments, really.
There's quite a lot there to get your teeth into. If I could just bring Stephen in first, I'm particularly wondering, Stephen, about your response to what Mick said about Welsh Government's role. Should our Government be a bit more challenging with UK media outlets when they're not doing their job and should they perhaps pick up on the role—the point that you made about using the regulators to correct when the information is incorrect or incomplete? So, Stephen, first of all. There so much in Mick's question, I'm sure there's lots that you'll all want to comment on.
Sure. I'll be brief. My understanding is, actually, that there has been more resources. I've been speaking to someone—I won't name them in case it was a confidential chat that I had—but my understanding is that there's been actually a creation of a new post that actually is now trying to put out fires, so to speak; it's actually trying to engage a lot more with UK media to try and correct some of those things. And he did tell me some anecdotes whereby he'd actually managed to change some of the on-air coverage live on a particular news channel, too. I'm probably giving it away a little bit from what he was saying. So I think that is going on, but I think this pandemic, as everyone has already said, is an opportunity, really, to start to highlight this more, to bring it to the attention of media regulators, to make it a big accuracy question. I think it would be hard to police an accuracy question in terms of broadcasting across Chepstow and where do you draw the line and the difficulties within that, but I certainly think you could put more pressure on broadcasters and print regulators or news regulators as well to really try and address this in a way that they haven't really done over the last 20 years.
I'll let Emma and Ifan have a go, because I think they're probably a little bit more qualified on some of those questions.
Okay, that's great.
Ifan i ddechrau. Sylwadau i ymateb i sylwadau Mick.
Ifan first, then, just in response to Mick's questions and comments.
One thing I'd say is I think the Welsh Government communications have improved massively over the course of the coronavirus crisis, from where we started off, and they've been extremely open and extremely ready to engage with the press. I have actually seen them go out there and fix mistakes. They've done it on Twitter; I've noticed that when someone has put a story up saying one thing, they've actually commented as the Welsh Government in the Twitter comments and said, 'This is wrong; you need to fix this', and brought attention to that. I think their handling has improved quite a bit. I just hope that the development in their communication strategy will perhaps continue beyond the immediate stage of the pandemic, and they'll be as proactive in the future as well in doing this.
Another point about the radio: there's been a massive rise, of course, in podcasts, and the use of digital radio in general as well. I think that's why we've seen newspaper coverage shrink, but the one growth area—certainly for the media in Wales—is in that field of digital radio and podcasts and so on. A lot of people are on their digital devices listening to these as they travel and so on. So, I think that's certainly a growth area to be looked at.
I think with community radio, they definitely have a really important part to play in terms of sharing news and information about communities, but it's a slightly different remit to news outlets, because if you think of the news bulletins, a small percentage of what they do is news, and also they do have funding from other various pots of money. So we at ICNN, we don't—. If anybody from a community radio station wanted to join us and they fitted our remit, we wouldn't turn them away. However, they do have the Community Media Association, so I think there is already funding in place for community radio. And whilst they do have a very important role to play in terms of community cohesion and getting news and information out there, it's a different role to the kind of journalism—holding local authorities to account and that kind of thing. That's not really the remit generally of community radio. So, I think it's understanding the difference in terms of getting information out there and reaching people, and then actually in terms of hard journalism and scrutinising. They have very different roles, I would say. But both do have a role to play.
Gosh, there were a lot of other questions. I'm trying to think of everything else. I was going to pick up on something Stephen said, but I've forgotten what that was going to be now. What were the other questions?
There was a question about the role of Welsh Government and then there was a question about communicating news messages to young people, and also particularly in the context of the extension of the franchise, and also about the role of schools and education in that. I'm sure I've forgotten something; Mick will remind me if I have.
So, Welsh Government—. As Ifan said, particularly, I think probably the most helpful thing that could have happened was the whole Dominic Cummings debacle, because that really showed the difference and the change in messaging. But I think absolutely; I think Welsh Government could and should be telling people, 'You've inaccurately reported this, this isn't the case for Wales' and possibly also explore looking at the opportunity of running a public health advertising campaign in Wales with Welsh media, with Welsh messaging. That's something that didn't happen in Wales, but is on the cards for Scotland and has happened with the UK. So, if there's very specific messaging, then that is something that could also be explored and looked at.
And again, I won't spend too much time talking about it now, but I'm happy to pick up on it: our programme is completely free of charge and we would love to see it by the end of next year rolled out to every single school in Wales—primary, secondary. It's really important that they understand and start to examine and question, because there's so much—. We are so information rich that actually, what we need to do is educate: what's the difference between stories, information, hearsay, echo chambers, all that kind of stuff; it's important that we educate children and young people from a very young age to question sources—
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. I just wonder what the panellists think about the BBC's local democracy project, which is a very innovative, interesting idea, and it seems to have had a lot of success, some very interesting stories, and gets quite wide coverage. No doubt there's some displacement activity here, I suppose—that a lot of those people would have been just employed on the likes of the local newspapers before—but at least it offers something of a model about how we can see interventions that are either directly publicly funded or via something like the BBC. Internationally, are there any models that are interesting? Because it seems to me that from news coverage—. Newspapers several generations ago stopped being the main outlet. They do analyse news very well, and investigative journalism—that's really important—and particularly commentary. But, you know, certainly for national-level politics and international events and big things that happen in society, for a long time I think people have looked to broadcasters, really, to give them most of their news. So, in a way, it's kind of looking at what we expect that sort of print journalism then to do. And this may be a naive question, but there's an awful lot of advertising in the world still—in fact, it seems to be increasing not diminishing—so where's all the revenue gone?
Fe wnawn ni ddechrau gydag Ifan. Sori, Ifan, dŷn ni'n cael trafferth eich clywed chi. Dŷch chi'n gallu ein clywed ni?
If we could start with Ifan. Sorry, Ifan, we can't hear you at the moment. Can you hear us?
We're having a bit of an issue with Ifan's sound.
Tria eto, Ifan.
Try again, Ifan.
We've still got a bit of a problem. Let's see what we can do to help with that. I'll go to Stephen and we'll come back to you, Ifan.
Mae'n ddrwg gen i. Stephen.
I'm sorry. Stephen.
To pick up on the local democracy point from the BBC, I don't know the specific details of the—and some of the research that's come out about how effective they are, but the broader point about the importance of public service broadcasting is important. I don't think we've mentioned that too much in the last hour or so. Having done quite a lot of these comparative studies across broadcasters, I think they all occasionally do it very well in comparing and explaining the policies very well across the nations, but usually the BBC does stand out; it is the most sensitive, it does have the most specialist editors. I think Hugh Pym, the health editor, is exceptionally good and can always put things in a very nuanced, contextual way for England, whilst also acknowledging the differences between Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So, I do think it's possible.
We've mentioned education in schools before, but also journalism education, when you're trained in journalism schools like in Cardiff University and other schools across the UK, even if you're English as well, you may not be as fussed, as interested in the some of the issues that we're discussing. It should be part of the curriculum to have a really good knowledge if you're going to start to report around education and health. But also that sensitivity, as well, between—there are reserved issues that are reported around the economy, the furlough scheme and so on, and then it can very quickly change back into something that's devolved. And, you know, having done quite a few of these research projects before over the years, when we're watching this very carefully, we're having to Google lots of different things to work out what's relevant and what's not relevant.
I recall a few years ago when we were looking at the reporting of nuclear power stations, which, of course—nuclear, when we were analysing it, it is a reserved issue. But there were local planning issues as well that were a part of that. Now, obviously, there was a team of researchers, we were looking at this and we could see that it needed some context. Our journalists, you would hope, would be trained and it would actually be part of what they do as their public service remit.
I suppose the broader point as well around the importance of the BBC and public service broadcasting is the importance of regulation as well, of Ofcom, in maintaining standards of accuracy that we've talked about, but also impartiality, which we've not mentioned before. You know, to be duly impartial is to ensure that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are represented as part of that. So, continuing to believe in public service broadcasting, to fund it, to protect it, I think is important within these debates as well.
Fe wnawn ni drio Ifan eto.
We'll try Ifan again.
We'll try Ifan again to see if that's better. No, we're still not hearing Ifan. We'll have another—.
Broadband Ceredigion yn ein taro ni, mae gen i ofn, ond fe wnawn ni drio reset eto.
Ceredigion broadband affecting us, I'm afraid, but we'll try another reset.
I'll go to Emma and remind you of the questions: the BBC local democracy initiative as well as any international examples or places we could look for international examples, and David's last question was where has all the advertising gone, where has the money gone. So, we'll start with Emma, and we'll try Ifan again in a minute. I hope it works.
Okay. So, the idea is I sit on the BBC's LDR advisory panel. I've been involved in it from the very offset, from the early days. I think the BBC's done a remarkable job with the scheme. I think it was a big undertaking to start with. Obviously, nothing's without its teething problems, but most of those have been ironed out. We are hopeful that this will continue in the same vein as it has. And the one thing I would say is the BBC have been incredibly receptive to working with and including the independent community news sector as well. So, whilst most of the bundles and most of the contracts did, by nature, go to the larger corporates, I know that there's work in place to level the playing field a little bit there, which we're also involved with, moving forward.
But as a scheme as a whole it's been incredibly successful, because what it does is, with all our members, the most valuable commodity any of them has to trade is their time, because when you're busy trying to run a newspaper, be a journalist, get all your content in, do the ad sales, do everything else, and if you know for a fact that somebody is going to be covering a particular council meeting, that means you can then be sitting in court or doing something else at the same time. So, it's not a 'sit back and let the content come in'; it just means that you can have a wider depth and breadth of content coming in.
So, with examples from abroad, I think the issue we have is very difficult to compare with various other countries, because democracy and local community looks and sounds and feels so different in different places. So, over the last couple of years, I've been out in Sweden and over in Norway, and actually they're looking at some of the work that we're doing to see if they can replicate it over there. The idea that an area like Port Talbot has no dedicated journalists—they couldn't believe it because, to them, that was a large area.
So, I think looking at—. I know that in the Basque Country—those kinds of countries as well—there are places we can look. There are lots of things happening in America. I've spoken at conferences over there as well, but, again, their idea of local compared to our idea of local is very different. I think where we're very fortunate in Wales is that we're the perfect size to be a test bed. We can be trailblazers here, we can lead the way and be really innovative.
So, some of the work that we're doing at the Centre for Community Journalism, along with the University of Central Lancashire and digital tech partners Omni Digital in Bristol—. We were fortunate enough to be successful to receive some Google digital news initiative money. So, we are in the process—we're just coming out of alpha testing now and about to go into beta testing. We're creating a UK-wide hyperlocal news agency, because there's been a huge history over time of larger publishers—I'm not going to beat around the bush and say they've lifted content—stealing content, effectively; cutting and pasting content from other people, and we know that these stories are valuable in monetary terms further up the news food chain. We know that some organisations syndicate them internally to their own nationals, then syndicate them externally, and the journalists that originally went out—and it's the sweat on their brow; they went out, they spent the time getting the interviews, writing it all up—they're the ones who don't have anything. So, we're hoping to flip that on its head. And potentially, with COVID and job cuts and everything else, this is a way of ensuring that local news—. So, it's a central system where information gets sent from the independent publishers into a central repository and, in very much the same way as the local democracy reporting scheme, there are news wires of content that go out, so there'll be news content of local news that goes out as well. And there are various add-ons that we would like to do to that platform, particularly, for example, translation. So, if we could get it working that all the content that comes in is automatically translated, then we'd have a Welsh language feed coming out as well.
So, there are lots of interesting things, and I think this is a really good time for us and for Government to start thinking outside the box and thinking, 'We're just the right size of a country, we've got just the right issues, and a mix of rural and city and everything else, that we'd be a fantastic test bed.' I think we can really lead the way here, as you've already done by supporting the independent sector compared to other Governments as well.
I think that's a point very strongly made. We don't have time for a full answer to David's question about advertising. I'm just going to try Ifan—
—unwaith eto i weld a oes—. Triwch y sŵn eto. Na. Mae'n wir ddrwg gen i. Pe bai'r cyfarfod yn mynd ymlaen yn hirach, byddwn ni'n dy dynnu di mas a thrio dod â ti nôl, ond gan ein bod ni'n dod i ddiwedd y sesiwn, ymddiheuriadau mawr ond does dim amser gyda ni i wneud y technical fixes.
So, wrth dynnu'r eitem yma ar yr agenda i ben, gaf i jest ddweud diolch yn fawr iawn i'r tri ohonoch chi—cyflwyniadau hynod o ddiddordol? Maen nhw'n bendant wedi dechrau i mi, a dwi'n siŵr fy nghyd-Aelodau, feddwl mewn ffyrdd gwahanol. Os oes yna bethau ychwanegol—efallai, yn enwedig Ifan—tystiolaeth ychwanegol dŷch chi am i ni eu hystyried, mae croeso cynnes i chi gysylltu; ro'n i'n mynd i ddweud 'ar bapur' ond, wrth gwrs, beth dwi'n ei olygu yw ar e-bost. Wedyn, fel arfer, byddwn ni'n danfon transcript atoch chi i sicrhau ei fod e'n gywir. Felly, gyda hyn, diolch yn fawr iawn i'r tri ohonoch chi, a diolch eto am eich amser a'ch tystiolaeth.
Rŷn ni tipyn bach yn hwyr—rhyw bum munud yn hwyr—ond rwy'n bwriadu dod â'r cyfarfod i frêc bach. So, a ydym ni'n gallu rhoi stop ar y darlledu, os gwelwch yn dda?
—once again. Just test your audio once again. No. I do apologise. If the meeting were longer, we would take you out of the meeting and try and bring you back in, but as we are approaching the end of the session, then I do apologise, but we won't have time to do those technical fixes.
So, in drawing this item to a close, may I just thank all three of you very much? Your presentations were very interesting. You've certainly got us thinking in different ways. If there is any additional information—particularly from Ifan, but also from the other two—any other evidence that you'd like us to consider, then you're welcome to contact us; I was going to say 'on paper,' but what I mean, of course, is via e-mail. And then, as per usual, we will send you a transcript so that you can check it for accuracy. So, with those few words, thank you, all three, very much and thank you for your time and for providing us with evidence.
We're a little late in concluding that session—some five minutes late—but I do intend to now take a short break. So, could we cease broadcasting, please?
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:36 ac 14:48.
The meeting adjourned between 14:36 and 14:48 .
Prynhawn da eto, a chroeso cynnes i'm cyd-Aelodau nôl i'r pwyllgor y prynhawn yma. Dŷn ni'n symud nawr at eitem 3, sef tystiolaeth bellach ar fel mae COVID-19 wedi effeithio ar newyddiaduraeth a'r media lleol yng Nghymru. Croeso cynnes i'n tystion ni.
Good afternoon, and welcome back to this committee meeting. We now move to item 3, which is further evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on journalism and local media in Wales. A very warm welcome to our witnesses.
A very warm welcome to our witnesses. If I could just ask you all to briefly introduce yourselves—Steve Johnson first of all.
Hello. I'm Steve Johnson. I'm the community radio tutor, effectively, at the University of South Wales, and I'm also the person who is working hard to establish Wales's Community Radio Network Cymru as a lobby group for community radio across Wales.
Welcome. Gavin Thompson. Can we unmute Gavin's microphone, please, or does he need to do that himself? There we go, Gavin, you should be fine now.
Fantastic. Yes, so, I am regional editor at Newsquest in Wales. So, that means I'm the editor of the South Wales Argus and a number of our other titles in east Wales, and also have oversight over our titles in west Wales. Just for clarity, I'm not responsible for our titles in north Wales.
That's very helpful. Thank you. Phil—Phil Henfrey, a frequent visitor to this committee—practically an honorary member.
[Inaudible.]—to be here to talk about ITV. I'm Phil Henfrey, I'm the head of ITV Cymru Wales.
Hi, everyone. My name's Andrew Dagnell. I'm head of news gathering at ITV News.
Well, thank you very much to the four of you for giving your time to be with us this afternoon, and we'll go straight into questions, as we usually do. I'd like to ask all of you, really, from your perspective—I'll start—how well informed has the Welsh public been during the pandemic, and if you can give any examples or evidence to support your answers? I don't know who'd like to start. I'll go to Phil first of all and then Gavin.
I'll try not to repeat some of the things I've already said to this committee on this, but I think if you take as a sort of starting point the fact that we provide trusted mass-reach journalism about Wales for free and then we make it universally available to our audiences, then I think the past 17 weeks, as I've said before, have only served to underline the vital role that commercially funded broadcasting plays in Wales.
Our overriding priority all the way through this was to keep our people safe, and also those who we report on in a hostile environment, and I think we've done that. Some 85 per cent of our team have continued to work from home, and in our broadcast centre, we've been working with the socially distanced guidelines from the very beginning. But, at the same time, our news operation has not missed a beat. It's maintained a comprehensive television news service across the week and, importantly, across the day, from our early morning bulletin in Good Morning Britain to our late bulletins after News at Ten.
Despite the massive disruption to our ways of working, we've created new content for audiences in Wales too. We've reformatted three of our current affairs programmes, two in Welsh for S4C and the other in English for ITV Wales, with Wales This Week entering its seventeenth week on the air over this period this week. We've also carried live the daily Welsh Government press conference on our website, and online has also had extra resources devoted to it as well, to our online news operating system. We've actually put a new content management system on air, as it were, during this period as well, and that new product will enable us to develop the website further.
All of this activity has been appreciated by our audiences. In the first five weeks of lockdown, tv audiences for our six o'clock news were up by 12 per cent year on year, whilst our website has seen a 300 per cent increase in users, compared to the first six months of this year. So, I think on all levels, in terms of what's the relevance of public service broadcasting—commercially funded public service broadcasting—the last 17 weeks have really helped to underline its relevance and the vital role that it plays in Wales.
That's great. I should just have said to witnesses as well,that the technology is beyond me, so if you wish to come in, just show your hand. I know there's a little yellow hand that we can use, but that just confuses me. Gavin.
I think there's no doubt, in terms of how well informed the Welsh public has been, that there has been confusion. I think there have been some bright spots with that. The daily media briefings have been very beneficial, and we see that in our audience figures. On The South Wales Argus, we see a peak in audience or a spike in audience when we're publishing the latest news from the briefing. Today, I think our top story at the moment is around the changes around face masks and so on. So, that definitely has helped, and through local media such as ourselves, we've seen a huge rise in audience. People are finding that information.
At the same time, we know that, from a national media perspective, lots of information has been presented without caveat, and that's certainly caused some confusion. I think that's probably compounded by the fact that a lot of people are getting their news from Facebook without necessarily knowing where the original news has been shared from, and, therefore, probably getting news from sources that aren't necessarily Welsh.
I think in the national UK media, in the last couple of weeks, there's probably been more written about the First Minister's favourite cheese than there has about the actual specifics of the difference in the devolved rules. But, certainly, as a local publisher, we're doing our best to make sure that people are well informed and we're very much committed to continue doing that with our front-line journalists in Wales.
Yes. I'm going to just—. Obviously, today, as I'm sure the panel are aware, I'm advocating primarily for the community radio sector across Wales, but what's been really interesting with that is that it's added another strand, really, to the layers of news provision, I think, for the communities of Wales. Obviously, they're working on a shoestring, these stations and charitable and non-profit-making organisations. The amount of hours that they put in to get the stories out to the local community is something of legend. One of the stations voluntarily put together something like 1,200 hours a month, which is quite amazing, really. But the argument is that they've been, in effect—from a different perspective, admittedly—the glue, really, that's delivered the information and kept the community informed at very much a local level. For example, with the First Minister, Môn FM interviewed the First Minister at the time of the 2 Sisters outbreak, a very, very local story, and managed to get something like 1,300 listeners in the first couple of days. What I've really liked about community radio and the way that they've dealt with this as well is that not only have these volunteers been working from beaten-up laptops and cheap microphones and whatever—maybe they've had better than that, but not necessarily so; they've funded stuff themselves—they've covered these stories.
But also, if we use the example of the daily press conferences, what was quite interesting there was—the reference to cheese is very valid, by the way—that on this occasion they were able to ask their listeners, the local populace, the people of the area, 'What are your questions for the First Minister?' Then, within the context of the daily press conferences, generally it's about two questions per journalist, so it's quite tight, so this took it more into a realm of what I would say was democratic participation, where people were asked to put their own, localised voices and opinions and just give another layer.
So, I think community radio actually has proven itself at this time to be absolutely invaluable. It has totally risen to the occasion and has really raised the flag to say, 'Yes, community radio matters.' So, it's from that perspective, really.
Thank you, Steven. In my next question I might, if I may, start with Andrew, to get your perspective on how well informed has the UK public been about how devolution shapes the Government response to the crisis. How easy has it been to keep that in mind?
It's an interesting question. I guess my starting point is that our No. 1 priority has been explaining what coronavirus means for people's day-to-day lives, both in terms of the virus and the science behind it, but also in terms of tackling it. As Phil says, we are a public service broadcaster for the whole of the UK, and so therefore a big part of what we do is explaining the differences in the Government policy between the different nations, and really a lot of what we do is focused on that. So, I slightly question what Gavin's saying about national broadcasters, national journalists, not giving enough attention to that. If anything, my view would be that COVID has probably enhanced people's understanding of devolution and what devolution means in a kind of practical sense because, as a viewer, I don't think that you have to be especially interested in the politics of devolution to understand it—it's a very tangible thing. We have this virus; in England they're dealing with it in one way, in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland they're dealing with it in a different way. So, if anything, I think that the pandemic has certainly meant that more people understand how devolution works and what it means in practice, and certainly that's something that we've worked very hard to make sure is clear in our coverage.
There are two ways, I guess, that we've done that on the network news, which is that we have, wherever possible, made it clear when something is specific to England or indeed to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. So, so-called 'Super Saturday' in England a couple of weeks ago was quite a good example of that. It was a story that was focused on restrictions being lifted in England, but off the back of that, we had a graphic sequence explaining that this wasn't the situation throughout the rest of the UK—in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland it was very different, and we went into that.
So, that's something that we've tried to thread throughout our coverage. We haven't always got that right, and I'd be the first to admit that, but I think by and large we have. The other thing to say is that we have made sure that important moments in the pandemic and in Wales's response to the pandemic have been covered as stand-alone pieces by our Wales correspondent Rupert Evelyn. So, for example, when lockdown was easing, when the 'stay local' message was lifted at the beginning of this month, that was something that we did as a piece. In late June, when Welsh schools were returning, that was something that we did as a piece. There are many other examples that I could go into.
So, I like to think that we have done our part to enhance the UK-wide understanding of devolution. There's always more that can be done, I would say, but I feel as though weve been quite clear about it with viewers.
That's helpful, Andrew. I'm sure we'll come back to some of these issues in response to other Members' questions, so rather than bringing the other witnesses in, I'm going to turn to Carwyn Jones now, and we may pick up on some of these themes further down.
Yes, thank you, Chair. My question is to do with the coverage at the beginning of the crisis. We've touched on this, and we've touched on the issues of people being informed as to what's going on in Wales. If I could ask, then, a question of our witnesses from ITV: how easy is it to get your colleagues in London to understand devolution? Has it become easier since COVID-19 started, and how much of an uphill battle is it to make sure that the ITN news, the main news, actually reflects the realities of devolution?
The very short answer to that is: it's getting a lot easier. As you know, I've been doing this job an awfully long time, and with that benefit of time, if we sort of say, 'Okay, how easy was it 13 years ago compared with now?', I think it's a lot easier. Why is that? Because we've taken deliberate steps to make it easier. So, little things that we do have just become part of our everyday, but we refer to ITV News as one ITV News. So, the network news team, our team in Wales, and the teams right across the English regions—we all work as one. So, what does that mean in practice? There are daily meetings, editorial meetings, where what's coming up in Wales is put onto the agenda of the national editors, for example. The national team knows that they've not just got a Wales correspondent who could be in other parts of the UK at times, depending on where the stories are, but they know they've got a team of journalists that they can call on when they need to do stories. So, that kind of one ITV News aspect and culture that we've got has actually brought us much closer together and there's a greater awareness.
Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't mistakes; sometimes things go wrong. During the pandemic, it really amplified the volume of coverage, if I could put it that way. So, because of that, there were times when we didn't get it right, as ITV News, but what we are able to do is—I'm not just ITV's voice in Wales, I'm Wales's voice in ITV. So, what we are able to do is to quickly go right to the people and say, 'Right, that's wrong. This is why it's wrong' et cetera, et cetera, and then those mistakes don't happen again. So, I think that there are things that have been built into the system now that make sure that what's coming up in Wales is on the agenda of the national team and then, when mistakes do happen, there's a very quick—believe me—referral system that points out that mistake and looks to seek to understand how that mistake was made, and then we look to correct it so it doesn't happen again.
So, it's not a perfect system, Carwyn. I'm not going to say it is. There are times that we here in Wales, as ITV Wales, get sometimes a little frustrated, but that sort of understanding that this is different and it needs to have proper consideration within that is very much there and to much greater levels than I think it was 10 years ago. Maybe Andrew can pick up on some of those areas.
Yes, all of that. I think that, as Phil says, we see ITV News as one news group, and we are in constant contact with all of the regions and nations that make up ITV News. So, they are our ear to the ground, and it helps us stay across the Welsh agenda very easily, I would say. The other thing I would add is that we have a Wales correspondent, Rupert Evelyn, who again you will all know, I'm sure. He stays across the agenda and he's always championing stories from Wales. It doesn't really require a lot of effort, though, I don't think. Look, Phil has worked at ITV for a lot longer than I have—I have been here six years now at ITV News and Daybreak and Good Morning Britain before that—but it's not as though the editorial teams require me to convince them to do stories about Wales. We understand the importance of reaching our audience there. We understand the differences, as I've said, and I think that it's important to ask that our viewers do, too, and that we serve our Welsh audience thoroughly with accurate, impartial news as we try to do for the whole of the UK.
Like I said in my previous answer, I do think that teams in London probably understand the mechanics of devolution better now than they used to do, and certainly the pandemic has helped with that. You don't have to prod the teams to understand that devolution exists; the differences are important to be clear about. And actually, today is a really good example because I've just dived into our run order for the lunchtime news that went out just about an hour ago, just to see—because I haven't been involved in today—how they were dealing with the First Minister's announcement. In the lead-in to the top story, I'm going to read you a little but, if that's all right: 'Boris Johnson told shoppers in England to put masks on and gave his strongest indication yet that wearing face masks in certain situations could become mandatory. Meanwhile, the Welsh First Minister was saying that they should be worn on public transport and in taxis from 27 July to stop the spread of COVID, our political correspondent Dan Hewitt reports.' That is just a natural thing for our newsroom to do now; it doesn't require us to marshal it or encourage it—it should just be second nature.
And I think that, as Phil says, there have certainly been mistakes over the pandemic and over the last few years as well, but I think that they are the exception to the rule, and certainly if anything ever needs to be corrected, we do it very quickly. But, to me, it doesn't feel like something that is endemic or something that I have to keep a close eye on.
Can I just come back on that, and then I've just got a question for Steve afterwards, if I may, Chair? I suppose the question is, Andrew: has the penny finally dropped? As somebody who dealt with the network—. I don't single ITV out as unique here; I think it's true across the broadcast news services. For years and years and years, they constantly would present news that was only relevant in England as if it was relevant across the whole of the UK. It was endemic for a while, and then at the start of the pandemic it actually got worse, because I suspect we had so many journalists who were then corralled in London and became even more London centric than they were before. But there has been a change; I acknowledge that. So, it almost sounds as if it took the pandemic to actually bring home the reality of devolution to journalists based particularly around London, and the question is: will it last?
Listen, what I know is that stories from Wales on ITV network news are covered by our Wales correspondent. I don't think I've needed the penny to drop with Rupert Evelyn. So, I slightly question what you're saying, while also acknowledging that could I have, hand on heart, said to you that every single journalist across ITV News understood the nuances of devolution? Probably not. But I think it's too much of a stretch, though, if I'm perfectly honest, to say that it required a pandemic in order for the penny to drop. I've been commissioning stories about the differences in the health system for years now, and I can remember during the winter NHS crisis in 2017 that we were doing lots of bespoke stories from Wales because the problem was particularly acute there. Listen, I think, yes, on one level, everyone's understanding of devolution has got better as a result of the pandemic. I wouldn't agree with you that it required a pandemic for the penny to drop though.
To add on to that as well, I think we shouldn't look at what ITV does just through the prism of news. I think the First Minister has made several appearances, for example, on Good Morning Britain, where you've got real time there as well to go into the detail, so it's not just about a 20-second news clip—those are in-depth interviews. There was a new programme on the network during the pandemic, called Coronavirus: Q&A, which, again, the First Minister appeared on, as did other Ministers.
And the other aspect I'd put into this too is that I think everybody has learnt from the pandemic. And I think, actually, the Welsh Government press office team has also learnt about what it can do to better engage with the UK news providers. I think it has reorganised itself. It recognised that it too has got to provide that information, it's got to make it easily available, it's got to provide points of contact for UK media. And it's done that, and it's reorganised itself, and from what I've heard from the UK media telling stories about Wales, that's been hugely welcome. So I think that there are things, in a sense, that everybody could be doing, including ourselves here in Wales, about, 'Well, how do we tell our stories and get our stories on the UK media?' It's not all about the UK media being blind to Wales; sometimes, too, we've just got to get a little better at getting our stories out there—it's a competitive business. And I think the pandemic has really helped to amplify what's going on in Wales, and Wales has reorganised itself a little bit to serve that too, and made it easier for the journalists to tell those stories on their networks.
I'll bring Andrew back in—very briefly, if you will, because we do need to move on as well. If we can unmute Andrew, or Andrew can unmute himself.
Sorry, I'm jut getting used to it. Just on that point, I did speak to Rupert before I came here, and he said that he felt that engagement had massively upped during the pandemic, which has been incredibly useful. He referred to Martin Williams, who's dedicated to dealing with the national media; he was talking about very clear communication and briefing. So that has made the job of telling the stories from Wales a lot easier, I would say.
Just to make it clear: I'm not criticising any journalists on the ground here in Wales, particularly Rupert. It was an observation about what I'd seen in the past in London. But Andrew has given a spirited explanation of the position; I'm not going to explore it further.
Steve, just one very quick question for you, if I may. I have seen community radio stations—local radio stations, I should say—that offer a local or Welsh news service in the course of the week, and then, on the weekend, use a London-based media organisation that then provides news that isn't relevant to Wales. It's become particularly acute over the course of the pandemic. Have you come over that—sorry, have you come across that?
Yes. I would say you are talking about probably mostly commercial stations, as opposed to community radio stations there. And I agree with you. That is, briefly, an indicator really, I think, of a role that community radio, and to some extent as well citizen journalism, which Emma was talking about earlier, where those two different categories can help to ensure that there is coverage of local stories, more localised Welsh stories, in the various parts of Wales. And I think, yes, certainly, with community radio they can—they're volunteer based, but they're very supportive of the idea of making sure that part of what they do is get across current affairs and news as much as they can, and also to link directly with their communities, to find out what they're concerned about, and, as far as possible, to try and find out more about that. But you are right, it is a concern within the commercial radio sector, as more homogenisation of the stations continues, they continue to eat each other, and, obviously, it becomes more London centric by default. Also, during the crisis, a lot of the papers, such as the papurau bro and also the local newspaper in, I think, Anglesey—for understandable reasons—were unable to continue, and then community radio were able to step in and provide that extra tier of Welsh news. And looking to the future, I think it becomes more and more vital for Wales that we support every aspect, every opportunity, to engender Wales-based stories and stories for Welsh people.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. I'd just like to look at some of the direct impacts of COVID-19 on business models, and also the effect it's having on restructuring. The biggest scheme, I suppose, in terms of Government activity has been furloughing, and the National Union of Journalists has argued that it's just turning out to be a waiting room for redundancies and, of course, we've seen very substantial redundancies in the print media announced in Wales—and one just last week—during the COVID episode. What's your view in terms of what is happening? And obviously the broadcasters as well have been affected by lack of economic activity, which has a huge impact on the advertising available to the ITV networks. So, how do you view that part of this public health challenge?
I'll begin with you, Gavin, if I may? I know you haven't had quite as many redundancies at Newsquest as we've seen at Reach, but it's still an issue, isn't it?
It absolutely is. Just to put it into context, the impact on the business has been devastating. We've seen, in our business in Wales, probably an 80 per cent fall in our advertising revenue. So, while we've seen a significant reduction in casual newspaper sales, the impact on advertising has been the greater financial impact. And, at Newsquest, most of our advertising comes from local SMEs. Obviously they haven't had the money to spend, and that's therefore had the knock-on impact on us, and we are doing what we can for our local businesses. We ran an online advice Q&A with businesses in Newport, just last week, for example. So, we're trying to do our bit as well to help them to get going again. But, yes, we've seen our online audiences grow hugely, but that hasn't translated into revenue from advertising. We have done what we can. We've promoted our home deliveries. There's been an increase year-on-year in our home deliveries, for example, of the South Wales Argus. We've also introduced digital subscriptions for heavier users in our larger sites, like the Argus and the Western Telegraph. And those things all help, but they're small beer compared to the advertising revenue that's been lost.
I think on the furlough scheme, undoubtedly, the furlough scheme has saved jobs and the redundancies that we're seeing now would be greater if we hadn't had the furlough scheme. The way that our model has worked in recent times is that some of our smaller titles are essentially loss making and they're supported by some of our bigger, more profitable titles. Now, our titles aren't all right now. We hope that they will return to be soon, but without furlough—. We furloughed a large number of particularly sales staff, but also sports—not many news journalists, largely sports and sales. Without that, we would have had to bear those costs, which—. In the last few months, we've not been making a profit on our titles in south Wales and that's with furlough. So, without that, we would have been in a far worse position and we would have had to take more drastic action.
But, that being said, we are in a position where we are now having to look at redundancies. There is a consultation ongoing at the moment. Most of the proposed redundancies in our region are in roles such as sales and group finance. There are some journalist roles affected, mostly in sport. That's not to downplay the significance of those at all, and certainly, for any individual, losing your job is a heart-breaking experience, nor is it to downplay the importance of sport in our community. But, in terms of our role of holding public authorities to account and telling the stories of the pandemic and so on, we have protected news journalists as much as possible in this, and I do think that without furlough these impacts would have been worse.
We have been asking for further support. We have looked at things like the economic resilience scheme, but we haven't been successful with that. We would love not to lose any jobs and we are—. One of the ideas, one of the initiatives we've been pushing very hard, is that we've been talking to the Welsh Government about looking to get seed funding to support a new national Welsh media platform that could save some of those jobs. Unfortunately, that hasn't been forthcoming at this time. If that were to change, then that's something we could launch very quickly and help the wider issues that we're talking about here, in terms of telling that story of Wales and having that national print online voice for Wales, but, yes, the impact has been very significant.
Thank you. Phil or Andrew, do you want to add to that from the ITV point of view? Because, as you remind us, Phil, you're a public sector broadcaster, but you depend for your resources on private sector funding. Do you want to, Phil?
In terms of furloughing, that's mostly been used in other parts of ITV, around the commercial programmes and commercial sales. In terms of the public service programming, we've not really used furloughing at all as yet, and—well, we have no plans to do so. The public service programmes we make play a vital role in our schedules and, as I say, absolutely underline our public service commitment, and we remain committed to those. And, indeed, we've actually been investing in funding for the future. I mentioned the content management system for our website earlier—obviously, that's a strategic priority for us, so we continue to invest in that area.
That's not to say that these aren't extremely difficult times for ITV. I think advertising was down some 40 per cent in April, and productions too were virtually suspended right around the world. So, in terms of revenue generation, these are very unprecedented times—I think it's well known by everybody. And I think, to just try and elevate it a little bit, I've long sat here for many years now and said that a commercially successful ITV is a good thing for Welsh audiences. A commercially successful ITV sustains the public service content that plays such a vital role in Wales. So, I think we've all got an interest in finding ways to enable ITV to be commercially successful in the environment in which it finds itself.
And what I would say is that that environment, where, at the beginning of this year we were pointing to the threat to the overall system of public service broadcasting—those players who are threatening that system, who create virtually no content for Wales, are only getting stronger in this environment, and have only got stronger in this environment. So, the pandemic has amplified all of the issues that we were talking about in January and February of this year, and made the situation all the more urgent for intervention from a policy perspective.
I wonder if—. You know, we can pursue that point, but there is a sense as well, I think—certainly we hear this from the National Union of Journalists—that media providers are using the crisis to undertake a restructuring that they were intending to do anyway. So, coverage gets much more generic—centralised teams shifting out from, well, Wales, basically, and a move away from professional and journalistic standards, basically. So, how do you respond to that, in terms of, I suppose, keeping your platforms viable financially, but then employing the expert journalists, without which we get no effective democratic scrutiny from the press?
Gavin, did you want to respond to that? It picks up on some of the themes you've already mentioned, I think.
Yes, of course. I think, in terms of centralising to other areas and things, you're probably more referring to some of the proposals that Reach have just put out just recently. Obviously, I can't speak for them, but there are ways in which it makes sense for newspapers to look to centralise some, for example, features pages and things like that in order to maintain the focus of resources on local news. Actually, in Newsquest, the centrally-produced features pages are done in Newport for the rest of the country, so it's not always Wales losing out there—that's keeping jobs in Wales instead of somewhere else. But the focus is on, very much, local news, making our journalistic resources available in our local businesses to focus on local news and sport and local journalistic coverage.
It is undoubtedly challenging, and I think what we've seen in this current pandemic—. Some of these problems, of course, were already here. We've seen a long-term decline in newspaper sales—nobody is going to argue otherwise. What we have seen, though, I think, in this pandemic, is that some things have been accelerated. So, newspaper buying is habit. People who haven't been going out have broken that habit. We hope they will return to it, but that's a challenge we face. But what it's also done, really, is taken the legs out from under a lot of publishers in terms of attempts to refocus on digital revenues, because the digital advertising revenues just haven't been there and that has made it much harder for—it's taken away that source that we've been migrating to.
I think there's a broader interesting question here around—not so much on a local level, but, if you look at, globally, the media, the media that has thrived through this has been media that has had business models with a greater degree of reader revenue— subscription, if you like—and I think, without our newspaper sales revenue, we would be in a much worse position at the moment. But I think it's something that—as a business, we need to look at how we can monetise reader revenues online more. We've started to do that with some of our bigger sites in Newsquest, with a digital subscription model. It's targeted at readers who read a lot, heavy users; it's a fairly low price point of £5 a month. We've seen some success with that, but it's not huge numbers. But what we do think is that there is potential to pursue that subscription model further, and the initiative I was referring to before that we were hoping to get some seed funding for was very much based on a sustainable subscription revenue model. And I think it's something that, as an industry, we're going to have to look at further. It's not easy on a local level. The smaller you get, the smaller your potential readership, and, if a certain percentage of people are prepared to pay for news and you've only got a starting point of a few thousand people, then you're going to struggle to make it pay, but it's definitely an issue we need to look at.
And also, of course, getting our local businesses back on their feet and being a part of the communities that we're in: the more we can support them, then the more, in turn, they can support us down the line.
Thank you. Did anybody else want to comment on that point? Steve.
If I can just make a quick comment on that—because I'm interested in what Gavin's saying there about a pan-Wales network of generating news provision. It also goes back to something that Ifan said earlier—I'm very interested in what he does with that and how these different kind of operations can help to provide a voice for Wales.
Also, very briefly, there are three things that I always think about. One, with my students at university, is to consider the world outside the window. The second one is that, when we have a conversation, that conversation has an aim, like this conversation we have now. And thirdly and most importantly—and this, I think, relates to everything that's probably been said today—is this idea of articulation. So, we think of articulation as a form of speech; that's one form of articulation. Another more desirable—certainly for Wales, certainly for journalism, certainly for us as a nation telling our stories—is articulation where we generate articulations. So, we create connections where they didn't exist, we bring things together, we share experiences, we share skills, and doing that, I think, in general terms, wherever applicable, is the way that we should be looking—trying to create partnerships as, for example, in WCRN Cymru, the network for community radio in Wales. But I think there are partnerships there to be found, and, with some thought and effort, I think we can work together to some extent to help Wales have a voice.
All I'd say is, again, just to kind of underline what I think are the strengths in the current settlement of the commercial PSB. There's a highly effective, highly efficient network at play here. So, you get economies of scale, because you are a UK-wide network, that then also delivers locally, and, in our case, for Wales, and I think it's a really powerful model. And, again, when we're looking for new models, when we're looking for solutions to the problem, actually, safeguarding some of the things that already exist because they really remain relevant to audiences and they're really effective and efficient in what they do—those are two very strong safeguards, I think, when you're looking to, 'How do we preserve a Welsh voice?', 'How do we preserve Welsh content that really genuinely reaches mass audiences?', and the commercial PSB settlement that's been in place now for so many decades is really effective in delivering that. It's not the answer; it's not the complete answer to the problem, but, if you were to lose it, the problem is going to only get a lot worse.
Yes, I've got a few questions. Some areas that I was going to ask about you've covered. Perhaps I'll go to Steve, really, in respect of, again, the community radio issue, which I did raise with the last panel. One of the issues, of course, has been to get Welsh Government and, in fact, other bodies to advertise on there, particularly community and public-health-type programmes, but it does seem to me that one of the consequences of COVID has been the emergence of community radio in terms of very local information, some of it very high quality, some of it repeating information that's been circulated by other news agencies, but also creating a lot of local information and so on, and also using social media as an add-on. I know with GTFM, they've been, I think, astonished by the scale of engagement of social media on their publicity for their news items. I'm just wondering whether you see this as a sort of sea change in terms of identification of the role, and whether there really has been an engagement with community radio in terms of the public sector advertising that takes place and seems to have been very hit and miss in the past.
Yes. There are some positive moves towards more direction of PSB Government messages and advertising going through community radio. I think there's certainly room for more of that. I think a partnership between community radio per se across Wales and the Welsh Government would work well for both parties. I don't think that any of the stations want to just hold out a begging bowl and say, 'Hey, guys, are you going to support us?' They want to ultimately achieve independence and sustainability, and I think there's a really good partnership to be had between the community radio sector and the Welsh Government. I should say, by the way, that the stations through WCRN Cymru—Mick, I don't know whether you're familiar with the organisation; I think you are— they're very grateful for the praise that they receive, they're grateful for things that come their way, but their argument is that it just simply isn't enough, and if Wales is to continue to benefit from this third sector association of different organisations, where they're trying to work with the local communities, charitable, non-profit-making organisations, they need solid support, and I think more of a resolute and robust relationship with the Government.
Also, in terms of social media, interestingly, as an example, Bro Radio said that, their social media provision, they saw a 47 per cent rise in responses during that time, and I think community radio has absolutely risen to the challenge. People don't even know what community radio is, but they're beginning to realise now what it is. And conversely—another anecdotal one, just a brief one from Bro Radio, was that the conversation about devolution and about the Senedd and the Government and everything else was that people were saying, 'We finally see why this is so vital, why we need this for Wales, and aren't we benefiting so much from having a different structure to England? Because Wales has its own story to tell; we have our own problems.' And they're so thankful that there's something there to help them. So, I think it's generally—yes, you're right, Mick, it is generally, in terms of awareness and profile, certainly moving in the right direction, but it's there to be nurtured and grown and supported.
In terms of the remainder of the media—this is directed more at the rest of the panel—just from things that have been said today and the issue of Welsh Government support for the media industry, if there were one or two specific things that Welsh Government should do in terms of the model of support it should be putting forward, what should they include? What would be the sort of wish list, the key issues that should be contained within Welsh Government support?
Yes, I can do, certainly. Well, I think there are a number of things. I think at the moment we're still very much going through a crisis—not just a public health crisis, but a crisis in our many businesses—and being able to access some of the emergency funding to get us through would be greatly appreciated. But, looking ahead, I think funding for innovation. I've talked about a specific project—I'm sure there will be others that other providers would have—perhaps some kind of innovation pots of funding, seed funding for new ideas, would be something beneficial. The only thing I would say is things need to move quickly. We're in a position at the moment—particularly when we look at coverage around devolution issues, this is a crucial time, and we're looking ahead to the Senedd elections next year, where there will be probably more interest than perhaps there has ever been, because people have really seen the value of devolution in this time. So, I think it's about doing things quickly that both get us through the short term and enable us to look for or to try new ways to take things forward in future.
Thank you. Would anyone else like to comment on that question of Mick's? Phil.
Again, I've said this on a number of occasions, but this committee is a voice for Wales. In a debate where actually there are global forces at work, and the solutions perhaps don't all lie within the Welsh Government's hands, the Welsh Government can be a powerful voice within that to ensure that Wales is not forgotten in what those solutions may be. From an ITV perspective, prominence, we've talked about—you know, how do you secure prominence for public service content on these new platforms, which are competing in our territory and in our space, but generate no content whatsoever locally and in a Welsh context? So, how do you level the playing field, and how do you surface our content? And then, secondly, from a commercial perspective, it's mechanisms to enable us to get fair value for our content that does end up on these platforms. Those are two things.
And just to bring it back to the advertising aspect of things, I think ITV provides trusted content that, again, when you're looking online and you're talking about reach figures, and so on and so forth, how much of that content can you actually trust? How do you know what the source is, and so on and so forth? But we also provide a trusted advertising platform, as well. We build brands. We're one of the few players in the Welsh context that looks at Wales through a national prism, and we speak to all of Wales simultaneously. And so, that's a really important and powerful platform as well that is a very effective medium, and, again, when Government are looking to market and when Government are looking to get messages out, I would just make a plea that says don't forget ITV, when you're spending your marketing money, as perhaps one of the most trusted and one of the most effective ways of getting your message across in Wales currently.
Yes, just one short point. I think that is was Gavin who mentioned the national Welsh media platform as being a sort of objective. If you could just—excuse my ignorance in this area—explain how that would work and what it would do that was different to the platforms that exist at the moment.
Without going into too much detail because it's something that we are looking at, effectively, what we would like to see is a kind of national Welsh print and online news platform. So, if you compare Wales to Scotland, Wales has lots of strong local media. We obviously have broadcast, but Scotland has a lot of national media, not just the local in Aberdeen or Dumfries or wherever, but national Scottish media. Wales doesn't really have that and we feel that there is an opportunity—there's an audience who are really engaged at the moment, we think that there's a younger generation coming through who are very engaged socially in the issues around them, and we think there's an opportunity to try and engage with that audience with some kind of print or online platform, subscription-based model, providing Welsh news for Welsh people. We think there's a lot of potential there, but, at the moment, we're in this sort of phase where we'd love to do it but we need to find a bit of seed funding to kick it off, because, at the moment, our wider business is not in a position to dive in and support it. But we do think there's potential for a more sustainable model through that, and we definitely think it's worth a try if we can get that support for it.
Thank you, Gavin. Do any other Members have any further questions for our witnesses, or any points you'd like to raise? Gavin, you wanted to come back in.
There was just one point that we haven't covered that I wanted to come back on, which was a specific point around the coverage of COVID. One thing that we have found difficult is that scrutinising local decision making has become a lot harder in some areas because councils, local authorities are either not meeting or they're not streaming their meetings. So, in our east Wales newsroom, for example, we have two local democracy reporters. I think you touched on the scheme earlier on. So, they are employed by Newsquest but are on a contract funded through the BBC. They do great work covering all five councils across Gwent, but during COVID that's become harder because, for example, I think Newport has held one cabinet meeting so far. And not only was it not live streamed, but it wasn't uploaded online anywhere for about two weeks. So, by the time we could report it, it was largely out of date. I think Blaenau Gwent has held maybe two meetings, but they've largely delegated decisions. Obviously, these things were done because there was a crisis situation, but I think it's unhealthy for democracy if decisions are not being made in public where a reporter can watch live, even if it's not in person, and be able to report them. So, that's just a coverage issue around COVID that I think is worth raising at your level.
Thank you, Gavin—that's useful. Can I just ask our witnesses, as we've got a minute or two left in this session, are there any other points that you would have wanted to raise, wanted to touch with us, or any particular messages you'd like us to be conveying to the Welsh Government at this time? I've got Steve.
Yes, just to make a brief point. Once again, as members of the panel will know, we had a very positive meeting at the University of South Wales last summer, and, just for your awareness and to reassure you, I'm working with academics—two academics, actually; one in Northampton and one in Birmingham in the midlands—and we're conducting a study, and we'll be getting the information to you as soon as we can get good, hard facts and data for you. And the reason we're doing this is to explore the many ways in which community radio continues to enrich and give value to communities in Wales.
We're focusing on four specific themes, which I'd like to share with you. I'm getting vast amounts of information, but I'll send on as much as is relevant to you afterwards. The focus is on these things: the economic impact of community radio in Wales; the social impact of community radio in Wales; the provision of education and training and onward progression; and also the promotion of the Welsh language, culture and local affairs. I think community radio is trying to do all of that, and we have to capture that snapshot and share it with you, and hopefully we can help to enhance the value that community radio gives to Wales.
It's only to say that we, as ITV, have produced a film to show how we actually covered COVID, which covers a lot of what we've talked about. I'm very happy to—I think we wrote to you all individually, and hopefully you've got a copy of that—to put that in as evidence as well so that you have that for your deliberations, too.
That would be useful, Phil. We have all seen it, I think, as individuals. I very much enjoyed watching it, actually, but it may have disappeared into the depth of the inbox and may never be seen again. So, if you'd be happy to send that to the committee secretariat as well, I'd be very grateful
Well, we've come to the end of our time. I really appreciate—. I don't know—Andrew, is there anything further you'd like to add? Some of this conversation won't have been immediately relevant to you, but I hope that you've found it useful.
It's been really useful. Thank you very much for inviting me; I really appreciate it. There is just one thing that I wanted to raise. It's something that Rupert and our—. We have a data journalist that works for us, based in Gray's Inn Road, and the thing that they have said is that standardised data would really help our reporting on Wales. So, for example, I think there's a lot to be said about being able to compare the way in which different nations approach issues like tackling the pandemic, but we often come unstuck because the data that we're comparing between nations—. Because the nations rightly choose their own path in terms of how they're approaching data, we get a little bit unstuck because we can't directly compare like for like. And it's just whether it's worth feeding back into your conversations whether there's a way that that could be looked at.
I don't know what the easy solution is to that—maybe there isn't one—but something that Rupert did mention to me was that it's quite hard, for example, to compare testing figures in Wales to testing figures in England because various different metrics are used. So, if there was a more standardised data set—I guess that's the right phrase—that would enable us to kind of get into the nations a lot easier. Obviously, we should be covering stories from Wales that are just Welsh stories, but being able to have that comparator would also be very helpful. So, it's just whether it's worth feeding back that.
That's certainly a useful point, and, of course, from our point of view we very much appreciate network doing stories about Wales, but we're also very anxious to have Wales included in the stories that are not specifically about Wales, if you see what I mean.
Yes. We agree. We agree, yes.
And I can see that if you have more data that's easier to compare, that helps you to do that, to look at the different performances across the nations and regions of the UK, for example.
It just gives it a much more solid foundation upon which you can build a piece around, I think, so, yes.
Well, we can certainly feed that into our discussions. So, can I thank all our witnesses very much indeed for their presence today and for their time? There's some very, very useful testimony for us; we appreciate it very much. Andrew may not know this, but the rest of you, I'm sure, will—you will be sent a transcript of the meeting to ensure that it's been recorded accurately, and, obviously, your evidence will feed into the short report that we'll be producing on these matters, to which the Welsh Government has to respond.
If there are any additional points, any additional evidence that you'd like to share with this, we're very happy to receive it. The clerks are on a tight turnaround, so, if there's anything further you need to tell us, can you tell us as soon as is practically possible? So, with that, I'd like to say, again, thank you very much indeed to our witnesses and you're very welcome to leave us now, if that's okay. Thank you all. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
So, just before we turn to item 4 on the agenda, reference was made in the meeting to the announcement of the redundancies from Reach. I know Newsquest have got a number of redundancies too, but nothing on a similar scale. And I think we've all received correspondence over the weekend from the journalism trade unions, who, obviously, are very concerned about this. We can discuss this further in our private meeting, but I just wondered if there are any specific points on that that Members wish to raise while we're still on the record. I've got Mick and then I've got David.
Yes, I've seen the information that came through and, you know, it does really worry one. I think it was First Minister Mark Drakeford who made the comment about the threat to democracy, and it's the actual link between journalism and our democratic institutions, the flow of information and so on, and we can understand that there are significant economic pressures across all industries, including the media. I think the real concern I have is the impact that this is going to have still further on information and news being concentrated outside Wales for Wales, and the impact that has, then, on the quality of Welsh information and the sort of centralisation of what is already a very London-centric media, or an Anglo-centric media, I think is something that we really have to think about and what we can do to—. Because it is part of preserving our democratic institutions as well. So, I think it's something that we ought to be writing about. I know we'll discuss it in private session, but I think it's a matter that we ourselves ought to be raising with Government because it clearly is something that will have an impact.
Thanks, Chair. This is a real watershed moment, it seems to me, because insofar as we have a paper record, it is the Western Mail. It has produced the highest quality political coverage, outstanding business coverage, as well, which risks being diluted or lost if these types of developments go even further. I'm very concerned and, given the inquiry we're having, I wonder if we should extend the inquiry and invite Alan Edmunds, who was formerly, of course, the editor of the Western Mail and is now, I think, the chief operating officer, or the No. 2, if I understand their structure, in Reach, to give evidence via Zoom or whatever. It really encapsulates the whole challenge we currently face, and I think we need to give it particular attention as part of our inquiry.
Perhaps we can discuss exactly what we ought to do in the private session. Carwyn, was there anything you wanted to add? Carwyn Jones.
Of course, that's completely appropriate. So, if Members are content, we'll pick this up when we move into private session shortly.
So, with that, we'll move on to item 4, which is a paper to note, which is the letter we've received from the Welsh Government on their inventory of statues and public commemorations. Are we content to note it and then we may wish to discuss it in the context of our forward work programme in the private session?
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix), dwi'n cynnig ein bod ni'n symud i mewn i sesiwn breifat am weddill y cyfarfod. Ydy Aelodau yn hapus i wneud hynny? Pawb yn fodlon. Felly, a wnewch chi adael i ni wybod unwaith mae'r darlledu wedi dod i ben, os gwelwch yn dda.
Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), I propose that we now move into private session for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members happy to do so? Everyone content. Could you then let us know once the broadcast has ended, please?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:50.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:50.