The weakness of the media in Wales has led to an “unacceptable and unsustainable democratic deficit” whereby people do not possess basic information about the Welsh Parliament and Government, a Senedd Member has said.
Senedd Member Delyth Jewell pointed to “shocking” data that suggested that the Welsh public were not aware of basic information that would allow them to participate meaningfully in Senedd elections.
She referred to a study by Cardiff University and YouGov that showed that 40% of the people of Wales incorrectly thought that Plaid Cymru were in government between 2011 and 2016.
The study also found that in 2016 only 50% knew that education was devolved, and only 49% knew that health was devolved.
It also suggested that only 6% of the Welsh population read Welsh newspapers, while the corresponding figure for Scotland was 46%.
“I think people would agree that you can’t have a meaningful election unless people know which party ran the government over the previous term,” Delyth Jewell said.
“Welsh people simply aren’t being provided with enough information for Senedd elections to be adequately meaningful.”
After presenting the data in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell MS asked the First Minister: “Does the First Minister share my concern about this?
“And does he agree it’s not the fault of Welsh citizens, but rather that they’re being let down by the current media landscape, and if so, is he willing to work cross-party to explore ways to properly inform the public ahead of next year’s election?”
In his response the First Minister said: “I agree with her that the weakness of the Welsh media has always been a challenge in communicating the significance of devolution here in Wales.
“And that stands in a significant contrast to the position in Scotland, for example, where Scottish citizens are much more likely to get their news from a Scottish source, rather than relying on sources beyond Scotland, as we have so many of our citizens relying on sources beyond Wales.
“I do believe that the experiences of this year has had a significant impact however on the recognition by people in Wales of the fact that devolution and this Senedd is in charge of so many aspects of their lives, that have made such a difference over these months.
“I’m very happy to commit to working with others to raise the awareness of the forthcoming elections here in Wales and of Welsh democracy.”
Speaking after the exchange, Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, said:
“I’m glad that the First Minister accepts that the current situation in relation to the democratic deficit in Wales is unacceptable and unsustainable, and I’m encouraged by his commitment to work cross-party to try to improve the situation.
“Democracy cannot meaningfully function unless people know which party is in government and which services they’re responsible for running.
“The citizens of Wales aren’t responsible for the lack of basic information that’s made available to them – it’s a structural problem that means Welsh-based media simply cannot compete with London-based news sources, and it’s a problem that’s not outside our ability to fix.
“Plaid Cymru looks forward to working in collaboration with the Welsh Government and other parties to ensure the public are adequately informed ahead on next year’s Senedd election, which will set the course for our country for the crucial next few years.”
Delyth Jewell said that an analysis of the YouGov polling also showed that support for Welsh Labour for Senedd elections had an extremely strong correlation with Britain-wide support for Labour.
This strongly suggested that support for Labour for Senedd elections depended only on the popularity of Labour in a British context, and that the performance of the Welsh Government, therefore, has negligible impact on polling for Senedd elections.
The Wales Election Study, which has provided the data on which parties people thought were in government, how many knew education and health were devolved and which news sources people get their information from, are based on Cardiff University’s Wales Election Study, which was carried out by YouGov and had a sample size of 3,008.