Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hidden subsidies

Local newspapers across Wales provide an important service to their readers and communities; they are far and away the most popular source for local news and information.  They’re well-read too; often better read within their areas than their larger cousins, enjoying a high level of market penetration.
Many are struggling financially, however, and depend heavily on advertising revenue.  The call from several politicians from multiple parties this week for the Welsh Government not to remove the obligation on Welsh local authorities to advertise traffic orders in local weeklies is entirely understandable in that context.  But, as reported, it seems as though maintaining the newspapers’ revenue is the only reason for making that call, and that makes it sound more like a back-door subsidy than a sensible advertising policy.
There’s nothing wrong with the government deciding that local papers provide such a valuable service that it justifies using public money to keep them afloat.  But it would be far more honest to do that openly and transparently.  Ordering local councils to buy advertising which is otherwise deemed unnecessary would merely serve to create a delusion that the papers are commercially successful when they’re not.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. If it is considered that it is not necessary to publish the information in theses papers, but still want to subsidise the papers (and I think this might be a good idea), the advertising space in the papers could be offered for free to small local charities. Those charities would need to be defined in such a way that it only captures ones that don't currently advertise in the papers, as otherwise revenue might be taken away from current advertising.

Iwan Rhys

Boncath said...

John

One problem is the sheer volume of information that is in some Traffic Orders. I wont go into the bi-lingual issue but the point I am making is that they could be simplified with links to the
online source of the Order in its legal entirety

It all goes back to the history of newspapers when they were the only source of public information

The same problem seems to exist but in the opposite way with major roadworks of a maintenance nature for example where we only become aware of impending chaos by seeing lay byes being filled up with 20 tonne loads of limestone gravel

Nigel Bull said...

John,

During the referendum campaign, the Western Mail came out in favour of giving more power to the Welsh Assembly, the very same institution that is the biggest financial contributor to that hallowed organ.

Martin Shipton would have been a very brave man to have looked at the facts that reflect underachievement in just about every area since its inception and published the sensible conclusion that the time was not yet right. I want devolution to give power to the people, not a rubber stamp for underachievement. I think there was an argument to be made which the Western Mail could not risk. Being so beholden to the WA and its agents devalued any opinion that the Western Mail had, even if they were right.

If there is to be a subsidy for the regional press, for which I feel there is some justification, there must as you say be complete transparency. Finance must be supplied outside of ANY political control. As we stand, a relationship not a million miles away from that enjoyed by Pravda beckons.

Nigel Bull

Siônnyn said...

I was living in Carmarthen when the re-development of the Mart site was begun, The original remit only included the Mart site, but somehow, under the aegis of the chief executive, (Mark James) it suddenly included the Market site as well. Nobody quite knows how this happened, but MJ's close association with the contractor that eventually won the bid might have had something to do with it.

Anyway, the Carmarthen JOurnal - the oldest local paprer in Wales, came out strongly against the shady deal proposed. MJ issued an order (I have seen the e-mail that my friend who showed me would not let me copy it for fear of losing his job) that said that no Council advertising would be given to the journal until further notice. Shortly afterwards, the Editor was sacked, and a new, English imported editor was installed who took a very pro-development stance, and advertising was resumed.