The Importance of the Welsh Independently Funded News Consortium (IFNC)

Adam Price had a story in the Western Mail yesterday urging the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport to make haste on its decision to award the Welsh IFNC before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election. The response of the DCMS was concerning as it is the position of the UK Government to award the contract in May. The problem with this is that the Tories are committed to scrapping the three £20m two year pilot IFNC (Wales, Scotland and North East of England). Considering they are likely to form the next UK Government, the Welsh IFNC pilot will be dead in the water (if the election is on May the 6th) unless Labour gets their act together.

Wales is ill served in terms of its national media. Compared to Scotland print media is particularly weak. It’s a sad fact that most people in Wales read daily papers that ignore our country totally. The Western Mail serves as an important agenda setting paper, but has a frail readership base mainly confined to Cardiff and West Wales. ITV Wales over the last decade or so has become less of a force leaving the BBC in Wales to become an ever increasingly dominant presence. The lack of a national Welsh media is particularly stymieing for a national party like Plaid and our ambitions in building our nation.

The IFNC pilot is therefore especially important in Wales as we develop as a political nation. Not least with the referendum in the back of our minds as traditional ITV Wales news viewers will in essence be the swing voters of that vote. Those interested in a vibrant debate surrounding law making powers for Wales would clearly want a plurality of broadcast news coverage in Wales to penetrate as many Welsh households as possible. With BBC bosses in London increasingly operating as agents of the UK political establishment with their stance on the General Election debates, it’s only natural to be worried about the sort of line the BBC as a very centralised organisation will impose on its fantastic Welsh political team. Let’s not forget after all that the referendum is essentially a vote about transferring political sovereignty over fields of power which are already devolved from London to Wales – by removing the Westminster Veto over the ability of the National Assembly to pass laws.

Three bids have been submitted according to the Western Mail. Llanelli based Tinopolis are in the running and clearly if they were to win it would have a hugely beneficial effect on the Carmarthenshire economy. As someone who hopes to represent a Carmarthenshire Westminster seat I am clearly backing one of the most important local employers in our county. Let’s hope the DCMS fast track the decision making process.

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