Angen Amddiffyn Papurau Lleol

Recently in Parliament I was elected the first Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Welsh Media. The Group had been formed following a meeting I had organised in Westminster to discuss concerns about the future of newspapers. Local newspapers are essential elements of any community. As someone born and brought up in the Amman valley, I have been immersed in the Carmarthen Journal and the South Wales Guardian. They are far more than just newspapers, they are institutions, vital elements that bind our communities together.

Local newspapers are vital for our democracy as well. As a politician, I can’t see how I could function effectively if there wasn’t a general source that pooled together what was happening in the communities that I serve, and enabled me to inform the people I serve of what I have been doing in their name. They also hold those of us fortunate to be elected members, to account. Democracy can’t survive without effective scrutiny and accountability – and at a local level, local newspapers like the Journal are key players in the democratic system.

Unfortunately these vital publications find themselves under threat for a number of reasons. Firstly an all powerful BBC via its website operations is trampling on the traditional territory of local newspapers. Publications themselves in trying to embrace the new opportunities of the internet have undermined themselves by providing their content for free and hence hitting circulation. Local Authorities and their publications, despite being pure propaganda sheets for Senior Directors and ruling Councillors paid for by the public, directly undermine local newspapers by sucking up vital public advertising revenue. And the centralisation of the newspaper industry (local papers in Wales are owned by three large groups based outside our country) has led to a situation whereby a higher percentage of turnover is demanded in profit for shareholders, often achieved by putting local news teams under huge pressure in terms of human resource leading to a direct impact on content.

What’s to be done? There are a number of different models I think which could be explored. I personally have no issue with supporting a Scandinavian type model of state subsidy as long as this doesn’t undermine the editorial independence of news teams. A more likely idea which might achieve political consensus however is strengthening the provisions of the Localism Act to include newspapers as community assets.

The Act recently passed by Westminster means that a community pub for instance couldn’t be closed without a lengthy consultation meaning that alternative owners are more likely to be found or a community cooperative set up. The Act however does not include non land based assets. This week therefore in the House of Commons I tabled questions to both the Secretary of State for Communities and the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport asking them to expand the provisions in the Act. I hope I have managed to plant a seed in the minds of Ministers. Local newspapers are community assets and should be considered as such in law.

Man Trafod - Rhowch sylwad yma

Bydd eich ateb yn cael ei gymedroli, ac ni fydd yn ymaddangos yn syth. Medrwch baratoi eich testun mewn prosesydd geiriau cyn ei roi yn y bocs, ond ni fydd elfennau megis trwmder tecst a lliw yn ymddangos.