Why doesn't Welsh politics sell newspapers?

 

When politicians at Westminster talk about a "deficit" they are usually referring to the gap between what Britain spends and what it earns.

But politicians in Cardiff Bay were today focused on a different kind of deficit - the gap between political activity in the National Assembly for Wales and media coverage of it - or the lack of it.

There are frequent complaints that media coverage is too English-centric and the assembly's presiding officer organised today's conference to look at the issue and come up with solutions.

You won't be surprised to learn that this morning's panellists, especially those who have to sell newspapers for a living, weren't terribly sympathetic to the idea that more assembly coverage would deliver the circulation boost their papers desperately need. AMs are simply not box office in Fleet Street.

Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror, acknowledged that newspapers needed to be more accurate in explaining who runs public services in parts of the UK.

But he had watched assembly proceedings on TV - and isn't a fan. "It's as boring as hell," he complained. "I'm amazed anybody watches it."

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas responded via twitter: "We're not supposed to be Brucie, we're to scrutinise government and legislation properly."

Even BBC Parliament Controller Peter Knowles acknowledged that some debates can be "grim to watch" with AMs "typing and fiddling with their computers".

His solution was that AMs should - for the duration of the weekly questions to the first minister - stop typing and pay attention to the exchanges.

Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding said he couldn't possibly comment on the standard of debates but promised to pass on Mr Knowles' comments to colleagues.

Mr Melding said that when computers first arrived in the assembly chamber it was "ground-breaking - we had people coming from all over the world to look at that".

Peter Riddell, late of The Times, now of the Institute for Government, suggested politicians should simplify their language and explain things clearly. (Politicians who routinely refer to "Silk" or "Barnett" without explanation please take note).

The afternoon's panellists included Welsh newspaper editors Kevin Ward, Jonathan Roberts and Holly Robinson.

None has a full-time reporting presence at the assembly, but all argued they covered the impact of Welsh government decisions on their readers.

Jonathan Roberts explained what his readers want: "They don't buy process. They don't necessarily buy policy. They buy people.

"It is the people that matter: the process and the policy are only the supporting cast."

The editors appeared optimistic that newspapers had a future in print, at least short-term - reassuringly optimistic for an old print romantic like myself.

Kevin Ward said his personal view was that within five years most newspapers would be charging for content online.

Would you cough up (say) 50p to read what your local politician is up to?

Holly Robinson said the two most popular recent stories on the Western Telegraph website involved "the beast of Tenby" and that keepy-uppy man from Milford Haven. Not a politician in sight.

As today was what David Melding described as "a working day" committee business kept other AMs away from the conference.

The deputy presiding officer assured the audience that the conference would soon be available to view on Senedd TV, one of the few channels you won't see Brucie on.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - as other media moguls might say.

Politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster are now embarking on their Whitsun recess. They'll be back - and so will I - in early June.

 
David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 56.

    No.55. Welsh people pay tax e.g. income tax and VAT like people in England and so therefore contribute to the UK's payment to the EU. No one in Wales thinks that Carwyn writes a cheque himself. Get over the semantics and move on.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 55.

    ... #54, you obviously ignored my second paragraph.

    Wales has no direct funding relationship with the EU, Evans implies this.

    Unless politicians are scrupulously honest in their dealings with the public, and that honesty must include accurate statements, the democratic deficit continues, in this case aided and abetted by a Plaid MEP.

    .

  • rate this
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    Comment number 54.

    No.53 Wales DOES get back more than it pays in. This is simple maths. UK pays in based on 60 million people. So Wales pays around 1/20th of UK contribution. However because most of Wales is painfully POOR compared to not only England but most of Europe, it gets proportionately more back.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 53.

    ... that's not the issue I raised, it is the dishonesty of the statement made by Plaid MEP Evans, she implies funds go from Wales to the EU and then return as a greater sum.

    The facts are quite different, funds go to the EU from Westminster and return as a sum larger than the proportion that taxpayers of Wales could have contributed.

    Is the dishonesty part of the democratic deficit ?
    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    Re.51

    Circa 2/3 of Wales qualifies for EU Objective 1 Structural Funding, I believe, hence the benefit of membership to Wales...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 51.

    ... speaking of the EU, Plaid MEP said:

    ".. it gives more back to Wales in funding than it receives from us."

    [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-22665803 ]

    ... honest ?

    The facts are, Wales does not make direct contributions, its share is paid by Westminster, the UK receives less from the EU than it receives.

    Can Evans be challenged, or will the deficit prevent it ?
    .

  • rate this
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    Comment number 50.

    ... Boxer, I would like to add the following by Furedi,

    "The most significant problem with the act of taking offence is its corrosive impact on public debate".

    So when MG offends those who do not fit his/her view of Wales, in the pursuit of "public debate", we should grow thicker skins and welcome what might be considered extreme views, because they protect our democracy.
    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    No.46 Who is saying anyone is homosexual and surely that isn't a form of abuse in 2013? By the way, a love of Dusty Springfield does not necessarily indicate anything. As for stupid, well there are certainly misguided people on here, but not stupid people.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    Given that I have been modded a few times myself, when the temptation to retaliate has been too much, and a few times for straying off the subject - and for using French- I think that moderation keeps the debate civilised. AFAIK, no-one has been totally barred as a repeat offender. A modded blog can be reworded and re-blogged.
    OTOH, nothing said about me has really upset me.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    ... I think I understand where you stand Boxer.

    I have a very strong belief that freedoms of speech and expression are some of the most important aspects of our democracy, and that if we moderate out of our discussions contributors who offend we potentially lose important aspects of a topic. Do we lack the ability to evaluate critically such views, is it not more important to be offended ?
    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    #45 John, if you read the blogs of those who are the most moderated off the site, you will find a pattern of double-entendre to give a veil to a stream of invective accusing opponents of being non-Welsh, unpatriotic, homosexual stupid etc. The rules are published. A person of intelligence would get the idea when banned enough. Given what still appears briefly, shouldn't we keep moderation ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 45.

    ... how can the democratic deficit be made good when debate is suppressed.

    Here at the BBC a platform to discuss social and political issues, is there a difference, has been successfully developed into a premier discussion platform, yet its success is under constant threat by those who suppress dissent.

    The BBC should relax moderation, have only "on-topic" and "legal liability" rules.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    Home without being attacked by British Nats, Managed to speak Welsh without being abused. Realised most people in the community are not paranoid and like the idea of minority languages and cultures. Most of all was with English/Irish and Welsh people and they weren't uncomfortable with me speaking Welsh

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 43.

    Cythraul. Sorry if I misunderstood. Its been a long day of battling the forces of the mathematically challenged. Why has no one spotted that Silk looks like Sven Goren Eriksson?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 42.

    #40 "Perhaps if I speak English they'll think I'm a British Nat"

    No, to paraphrase an old joke. If you speak Welsh, they will think that you're a clown: if you speak English they will know that you are.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    Re.39

    I was returning the compliment offered at your 28. Never mind. Humour seems in short supply generally these days.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    Out for a pint now hope I'm not called a Fascist because I speak Welsh with my friends. Perhaps if I speak English they'll think I'm a British Nat

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 39.

    33. Woodsey, UK Plc still has a BIG crredit rating compared to most countries. This is a fact and is why borroiwong costs are 1/3 of those in Spain, Greece etc. Two countries with far bigger economies than Wales.
    36. Oh dear, you have resorted to the cheap abuse normally used by Woodesy. I had higher hopes for you.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 38.

    Re.31

    Boxer,

    Technically perhaps, but such a manoeuvre would herald the end of any 'union' twixt Wales and England. So it won't happen. Unless England decides to cut Wales free. So be it.

    A more probable scenario is continuing devolution of powers to Wales and, if Scotland says no, the creation of an English Parliament at Westminster. However, if Scotland say yes, what future UK?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    35.Boxer_the_Horse

    That's British Culture?? You need to get out more

 

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