Welsh Government agrees ‘in principle’ to set up ‘arm’s length’ fund for increased news coverage in Wales
The Welsh Government has agreed “in principle” to fund “on an arm’s length basis” an increase of news journalism in Wales.
In a letter to the Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Deputy Minister Lee Waters said that options to deliver this will be explored further following the election.
It comes after Culture Minister Dafydd Elis-Thomas said earlier this month that he favoured funding English language provision on a similar model to Golwg360, a Welsh language service that receives £200,000 a year through the Books Council of Wales.
The Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee had previously recommended in 2018 that the Welsh Government should make supporting public interest journalism in Wales “a strategic priority and fundamental to democracy in Wales”.
They also released a report on the devolution of broadcasting earlier this month saying that the Welsh Government should establish an ongoing central fund to support news journalism, with arms-length delivery and accountability to secure impartiality.
In his letter to the committee’s chairman Bethan Sayed, Lee Waters indicated that the Welsh Government agreed with their recommendations.
“The Welsh Government has been exploring options to strengthen and diversify the provision of news in Wales in response to concerns regarding weaknesses in the indigenous media infrastructure and plurality of news on matters of public interest,” he said.
“A number of discussions have been held with stakeholders over recent months. These discussions have reflected the view of the Committee that the supply of media content for Wales is inadequate.
“We note your report’s findings of widespread dissatisfaction with the supply of media content for Welsh audiences, in particular news and current affairs content, and recognise the impact of this on scrutiny of government decisions and democratic accountability.
“We note the recommendation that the Welsh Government should establish an ongoing central fund to support news journalism, with arms-length delivery and accountability to secure impartiality.
“I can confirm that the Welsh Government has agreed ‘in principle’ support to funding an increase in coverage of news, on an arm’s-length basis.
“Options to deliver this will be explored further following the election. We are keen to work with our stakeholders, including the Senedd, as we develop our proposal.”
Speaking to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee earlier this month, Dafydd Elis-Thomas had said that discussions had been held “at the highest levels” of the Welsh Government about funding English language journalism in Wales with public money.
“For me, Wales is a bilingual country,” Dafydd Elis-Thomas said. “And so I should fund everything equally.
“Wales needs effective English language journalism, and alongside that we need similar Welsh language provision.”
He added: “So Golwg’s model where the Books Council of Wales, the independent arms-length body, ensures that the funding is distributed properly.
“I wish there was a similar system for English journalism… The important thing is that there is an arms-length relationship.”
The minister also revealed that “commercial organizations” had “made bids”, before going on to say that he would prefer a “public sector funding mechanism”.
“That would ensure independence from commercial, or political, pressure,” he said.
He also said he was “optimistic” that the Government would eventually intervene to help English journalism in Wales.