Helen Mary Jones MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, has written to Reach PLC asking the company to reconsider plans to merge Media Wales with an English division of Reach and instead create an “all Wales” division.
Reach is the largest publisher of newspapers in Wales, with titles that include the Western Mail, the Daily Post, the South Wales Echo, the South Wales Post and news websites including WalesOnline and North Wales Live.
Last month Reach announced that because of a substantial drop in revenues during the coronavirus lockdown it was making 550 jobs across Britain redundant.
More than 70 journalists in Cardiff were told their jobs are at risk and in north Wales 20 journalist were told they could face redundancy.
The National Union of Journalists subsequently wrote to every Member of the Senedd and every Welsh MP asking for their support in a campaign against the redundancy proposals announced by Reach and also voiced serious concerns about the group’s commitment to Wales following a decision to effectively merge Media Wales – the Cardiff and Swansea operation – with a division of Reach covering the Midlands, Cheshire and Lincolnshire.
The editor of the Daily Post has also been removed from his post at short notice and the business is being run by a Marketplace Publisher based in the north-west of England.
Alan Edmunds, Chief Operating Officer at Reach PLC and Paul Rowland, Editor-in-Chief of Media Wales appeared before the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee last week.
In her letter, Helen Mary Jones writes: “As you know, the Committee is deeply concerned about the proposed redundancies at Reach PLC and the decision to merge Media Wales with the English midlands division for ‘logistical and financial’ reasons to produce more common content that can be used across Reach’s platform and the impact this will have of the plurality and quality of journalism in Wales.
“Given that Wales has fewer media outlets than other areas of the UK to lose in the first place, we are concerned that a reduction in the number of journalists operating in Wales will result in the dilution of Welsh content, making it even more difficult for the people of Wales to access accurate and relevant news and information.”
“The Committee urges you to consider merging all the Reach business in Wales, instead of merging Media Wales with an English division of Reach which could have a devastating impact on news coverage from Wales about Wales.
“Creating an all Wales division would ensure that the production and editorial control of Welsh titles remains in Wales. In your response to this letter, we would be grateful if you could provide us with details of what consideration, if any, you have given to this proposal and set out what you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of such a proposal.”