Articles by Huw David Jones
Calls to establish an independent policy forum for the media in Wales have been rejected by the Welsh Government. In its response to May’s Assembly report on the future outlook of the media in Wales, the Welsh Government said: “Although we do not accept this recommendation [for a media policy forum] the Welsh Government agrees that these issues should be kept under review.”
The Chair of the Welsh Government’s Creative Industries Panel, Ron Jones, has instead been asked to head a Broadcasting Advisory Panel, to examine ways of “maximising the effect of broadcasting in Wales”. One of the Panel’s first tasks will be to consider calls for a new Welsh media audit. The last such exercise was undertaken by the Institute of Welsh Affairs in 2008.
The Welsh Government also rejected calls to investigate sustainable business models for the press in Wales, describing this as “a matter for the media industry”. While this rules out direct subsides, the Welsh Government did, however, urge struggling newspapers to make the most of its current package of business support, including the Digital Development Fund and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.
The Welsh Government also accepted the Assembly’s view that it needed to be more proactive in its engagement with the UK Government. It promised to engage fully with the forthcoming Communications Bill, and plans to make representations to the UK Government and Ofcom to maintain the current level of Welsh programming within Channel 3 license provision. It also accepts in principle the creation of a Welsh-specific Channel 3 license, noting this has the backing of Ofcom.
Plans to create a Broadcasting Advisory Panel under the remit of the existing Creative Industries Panel will come as a blow to campaigners for greater media scrutiny in Wales and fall way short of calls for an independent media forum. The Creative Industries Panel has already been criticised in some quarters for failing to make much impact since it was established in 2010 – a point tacitly admitted by the Welsh Government’s plans to hold “a number of events this year where stakeholders will be given the opportunity to meet panel members”.
There is also the question of whether a panel solely devoted to broadcasting can meet the needs of today’s cross-media, multiplatform age. Yet in the context of squeezed budgets it is hardly surprising the Welsh Government is unwilling to pay for advice in an area over which it has little direct responsibility.
Perhaps it is time universities in Wales – few of which contributed to the Assembly’s inquiry into the future of the media in Wales last year – stepped up to the plate and did more to provide proper independent scrutiny of the media in Wales.