The weakness of the media in Wales means that the National Assembly should expand its own content platform in order to communicate directly with the people of Wales.
That is one of the recommendations of a report published today commissioned by the Assembly’s Llywydd, Elin Jones.
According to the report, not enough people know how the Assembly works, what powers it has, and what Assembly Members do and how.
The Digital News and Information Taskforce report suggests that the Assembly itself should take on a greater role in producing such content rather than depending on a “fragmented” Welsh media.
“Rather than absorbing ourselves in the pessimism related to the lack of media plurality in Wales, this new mindset opens the door to exciting new opportunities for the Assembly to reach audiences directly,” the report says.
“We think the Assembly should lead the way and establish an integrated content service to engage directly with the people of Wales.
“Headed by an experienced, impartial editor we suggest establishing a small team of journalists focused on producing content about the stories coming out of the Assembly, packaged in a way that is suitable for digital platforms.
“This should be delivered as a distributed digital news service using social media and other channels (such as dedicated email newsletters) to engage directly with people across Wales.”
It recommends placing people, rather than the institution and its processes at the heart of topical news stories as it looks to engage people with its work.
“While people may not be interested in the daily grind of politics at the Assembly, they are interested in strong human interest stories,” the report says.
“The aim should be to put people – rather than the organisation and its processes – at the heart of topical news stories and aim for an emotional connection.
“It is important that people understand what issues are devolved and which aren’t, and these stories can be a way of communicating that message in an entertaining way.”
The report also suggests that the Assembly should strive to tell its own story within the context of the wider sweep of Welsh history.
“From the laws of Hywel Dda through to the industrial revolution, the Assembly can be grounded within a common history that will appeal to people’s imaginations and sense of belonging,” it says.
The report also recommends a presumption of Open Data, so that others can freely use, re-use and redistribute Assembly data.
The taskforce was chaired by Leighton Andrews, the former Rhondda AM and Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation with Cardiff University’s Business School.
“These are radical proposals to use modern digital communication to better understand what people are thinking and concerned about, and to engage in real-time with people and to share with them how their representatives are responding to these issues,” he said.
“Assembly Members and staff must recognise their role as content creators, and see the Assembly as a content platform which should reflect the nation’s conversations about the issues which are of most concern to it.
“The Assembly has done much to embrace digital communication, but in an age where increasing numbers of people are looking to social media for news, and traditional media outlets are providing less political coverage than ever, the Assembly must provide the people it serves with engaging content, delivered in formats that they wish to use.”
Elin Jones AM, the Llywydd of the National Assembly, thanked the Digital News and Information Taskforce panel for their work.
“They have provided us with thought provoking, practical proposals to strengthen the way we communicate as we seek to become an open, digital parliament which engages with all the people of Wales,” she said.
“We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the Assembly, which is an opportunity to refresh the way in which the Assembly presents itself and to build a deep and genuine dialogue with the people of Wales.
“I look forward to discussing the report, and how we take it forward, with Assembly Commissioners.”