Posted: Tue 27th Jun 2023

Funding announced for new dedicated Senedd Reporter after Welsh independent media push

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 27th, 2023

Wales will soon have a new eye on the Senedd – thanks to new funding announced that will include a pilot project for a dedicated reporter in the Senedd.

Wrexham.com and Deeside.com have long been advocating for the concept of a dedicated reporter at the Senedd, creating a news feed for use and direction by Welsh independent media.

Crucially the reporter will cover the business of the Senedd – ranging from plenary sessions to committee hearings – the latter being something that rarely gets any coverage despite the importance of its work, and hopefully will reflect our attitude to council reporting at that level.

Pre-pandemic Wrexham.com explored the Press Association and other agency ‘feeds’ from the Senedd, and Wales, and were greatly disappointed by the scant output. The pandemic crystallised to many news operations with a UK or England viewpoint that Wales not only exists but devolution exists – with health policy most noticeable in that period.

Welsh Government have now confirmed funding “to help strengthen local journalism in Wales”, which is in Welsh Labour’s Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru – that has a commitment to fund existing and new enterprises to improve Welsh-based journalism to tackle the information deficit.

With funding emerging in part from the body it will hold to account and probe, the overall grant needs to be at a very long arms length. As a result it is being facilitated by Ping! News CIC – a community interest company run by the Independent Community News Network (Wrexham.com was a founder member of the ICNN) and Bristol-based developer Omni Digital. Ping! aims to support sustainability in the independent community news sector.

The Senedd Reporter role is loosely modelled off the BBC Local Democracy Service, where hundreds of reporters mainly covering local councils are paid for by the BBC (and your licence fee) and are ‘run’ by news organisations across the UK.

The Senedd Reporter will be recruited and run out of the independent media title ‘Caerphilly Observer‘, a Wrexham.com style independent media title for the Caerphilly area.

Richard Gurner, editor and publisher of Caerphilly Observer, said: “This exciting project is the result of a collaborative approach taken by the media and the NUJ through the Welsh Public Interest Journalism Working Group, of which I am member.

“Despite devolution beginning almost a quarter of a century ago, there is still a gap in people’s understanding of how the Senedd works and the influence and power it has over people’s daily lives.

“While not pretending to be a ‘silver bullet’ solution to the under-reporting of the work of Senedd Members, we are hopeful this project will form a foundation from which we can build.”

Overall the Welsh Government is making £200,000 available in the announcement, with a £100k “Welsh Public Interest News Accelerator” supporting up to ten organisations (Wrexham.com are one bidding) committed to delivering locally relevant public interest news and promoting growth in the Welsh community news sector.

In addition to the journalism fund, three sector focused pilot projects have secured a share of additional £100,000 of funding.

The projects are:

  • Independent Community News Network (ICNN) – Dedicated Senedd Reporter Post.
  • Cardiff University – Wales Sector Data Research.
  • Inclusive Journalism Cymru- Inclusive Media Development Lab

Funding to Cardiff University will allow it to look specifically at the current state of the Welsh journalism sector both from producers and consumer perspectives. The information gathered will allow for a comprehensive plan of action for future support of the sector, providing a clear overall picture of the industry in Wales and areas for specific, tailored intervention.

Funding will also be provided to Inclusive Journalism Cymru who are working to build a more inclusive and representative journalism sector. They will run a new programme – the Inclusive Media Development Lab – which will provide training, interactive workshops and follow-up support for anyone wanting to develop their media career with a range of entrepreneurship, business, R&D and product design skills. As the industry faces increasing economic challenges, these skills will be crucial in helping support sustainable public interest journalism.

The Lab is being developed and run in partnership with Startup Migrants, Media Cymru, PDR, and the Institute of Welsh Affairs. It will be an opportunity to connect with media innovators from across Wales, the UK and Europe, to learn about opportunities for further development and funding, and to become part of a network of people working towards a better media future.

Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism, Dawn Bowden, said: “A strong and vibrant media sector in Wales is an essential part of a modern democratic society. A strong and independent media is essential to provide a comprehensive service that informs, educates and inspires the people of Wales. I’m delighted that we can announce this funding which will play a part in addressing the issues which currently face the sector – and also asses the current landscape and inform future funding and interventions.”

Designated Member Cefin Campbell said: “Wales needs independent, home-grown journalism that is rooted in our communities so they are supported to report on matters that are relevant and important locally. Covering stories about Wales from Wales is a crucial part of our democratic process. By working together through the Co-operation Agreement, the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru are able to fund these projects so they can help provide a distinct Welsh voice and play a role in supporting home-made journalism for Wales.”

Commenting on the announcement Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Tom Giffard MS said: “Wales has a longstanding issue with a lack of media choice, but at a time when the Labour Government are cutting the Welsh health and education budgets, people will rightly ask whether this is the best use of their money.

“Labour should not be spending taxpayer cash self-selecting and writing the job description for a journalist to cover themselves, this is another example of Labour Ministers in the Senedd marking their own homework.

“While the industry may be facing difficulties, this vanity project is the wrong priority for the people of Wales. Labour need to focus on reducing waiting lists in our Welsh NHS, improving educational outcomes, and growing pay packets.”

 

(As well as welcoming a Senedd Reporter, Wrexham.com has long been advocating that Welsh Government consider independent media titles such this for competitive commercial consideration for advertising spend – rather than just rely on us to spread the word on whats happening in Wales for free eg. the latest 20MPH zone roll out. Readers will also be aware of our long term bafflement over the statutory notice system, which is basically a huge multi million pound subsidy for legacy media.  Ads not grants 👍)



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