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Create £1m contestable fund for independent news, says Institute of Welsh Affairs

Independent Welsh media (Image: Gwalia).

The Institute of Welsh Affairs, the country's leading independent think tank, has published on Wednesday (28 April) its Media Priorities document for the next Welsh Government.

The IWA says that the coronavirus pandemic has raised questions about the strength of the Welsh media landscape and whether people were adequately informed about where power lies in the United Kingdom.

The IWA says that the next Welsh Government must "do more" and recommends the creation of a contestable fund for independent news outlets of at least £1million per year.

The IWA says, "The democratic deficit in Wales’ media remains an issue, despite some positive progress over the last five years."

The think tank asked the country's five main political parties whether or not they would adopt its proposal to establish a fund if in government, and also asked what other steps would they take to support the country's media.

The IWA also asked the parties how they would engage with the development of this new body in opposition.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru says that it would establish a 'Welsh Media Commission' to undertake a survey of the country's current media provision.

Once established, the party says it would allocate £5m of funding to the Commission every year.

The Commission would be asked to report its findings within 12 months and would be charged with investigating:

  • Welsh audience trends in news consumption across a variety of media (television, radio, print, and online services).

  • International comparisons of media support schemes, to inform which support mechanisms are appropriate for Cymru.

  • The potential to support local and hyperlocal journalism.

  • A means to confer 'asset of community value' status to local newspapers to ensure that they cannot be closed down overnight.

  • The development of online provision.

Wales Green Party

The Wales Green Party says that it agrees with the establishment of a public fund of the type suggested by the IWA.

The party says that it believes in public service media and broadcasting as well as developing public interest and not-for-profit social media platforms.

The Wales Green Party says that any proposals would need to involve a wide range of stakeholders.

The party says it would also explore the development of local media reporting, podcasts, and social media news that has made the country's media scene more vibrant over recent years.

In opposition, the party says it would continue to engage at a local level to understand what is required from all aspects of the sector.

The party is also eager to open up a discussion on the role of media in supporting and enhancing democracy and improving government transparency.

Welsh Conservatives

The Welsh Conservatives say that they would adopt such a fund if in government.

The party says that it would "invest in skills and shared resources" to grow the country's media sector in the long term.

The party is also eager to support "factual coverage and analysis" of national issues by supporting new and existing independent news outlets.

The Welsh Conservatives also say that independent local news sources, especially newspapers, have been "severely hit" by the pandemic due to reduced advertising while businesses were closed.

Furthermore, the party says that it would strengthen the provision of impartial and reliable news sources.

Welsh Labour

Welsh Labour says that a strong and vibrant media landscape is the lynchpin of a healthy democracy. It says that high-quality, independent journalism and media is vital to the country's civic health.

The party says that the country currently lacks the quantity and scale of coverage of national affairs and says that local print journalism has taken a blow as a result of the pandemic.

In addition, Welsh Labour says that it has been exploring options to "strengthen and diversify" the provision of news in the country, and has already agreed "in principle", to funding an increase in news coverage on an appropriate arm's-length basis.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say that the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the importance of "timely, accurate, and relevant broadcasting and reporting."

The party says that it would establish "an ongoing central fund" to support news journalism, especially investigative journalism.

The party says that the new fund should be delivered at arm's length with "fair representation" to ensure impartiality.

In addition, the Welsh Liberal Democrats say that it would engage with the development of this new body "to support the goals of a stronger, quality based, independent, media."



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