Wales

Coronavirus: 70 Media Wales journalists 'at risk of redundancy'

Western Mail front page
Image caption Media Wales publishes a range of titles including the Western Mail and South Wales Echo

Half the staff working at a news publisher in Wales have been told their jobs are under threat, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said.

According to the union more than 70 journalists at Media Wales, which publishes the Western Mail, South Wales Echo and WalesOnline, have been told they are at risk of redundancy.

Local NUJ members have passed a vote of no confidence in senior executives.

Owner Reach said the changes would "protect local journalism".

BBC Wales understands that while 70 jobs are at risk of redundancy, it is likely that around 15 roles will eventually be lost when the consultation has ended.

The NUJ said Media Wales is losing its editor-in-chief, and is being "amalgamated with the English Midlands division" of the company.

Welsh deputy economy minister Lee Waters, in response, tweeted it was "the death of Media Wales".

"We surely can't just stand by and let jobs be lost like this or we'll have next to no local press left here in Wales," he said.

And Welsh Conservative South Wales Central MS Andrew RT Davies said it could be "another blow to the already dwindling Welsh media pool.

"At this rate there's going to be hardly anything left which is pretty dire for Welsh democracy."

Councillor Rodney Berman, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for South Wales Central, said media scrutiny was "vital for an effective democracy" and needed to be safeguarded.

In a statement, the company said: "Reach continues to consult with colleagues and trade unions over the proposed changes which are subject to a minimum 45-day statutory consultation period.

"The pandemic has seen significant declines in local advertising, so these changes are required and are about us operating more efficiently to protect local journalism and our news brands for the long-term."

Image copyright Jaggery/Geograph
Image caption Media Wales' headquarters in Cardiff

Martin Shipton, office branch chair of the Media Wales NUJ Chapel, said members were "shocked" by the scale of the job cuts, which include the editor-in-chief.

"They have given their all during the pandemic to produce high quality content for print and online, yet even at this stage they have not been told how many of them the company wants to leave the organisation," he said.

He added that managers in Cardiff have been "kept in the dark" and changes have been planned by senior executives in London.

"To add insult to injury they have done away with our editor-in-chief and Media Wales is being amalgamated with the English Midlands division of Reach under a marketplace publisher based in Birmingham, whose remit covers the English Midlands as well as Cheshire and Lincolnshire.

"There are also plans, which have not been explained in detail, that involve integrating what we do in Media Wales with the London-based national papers, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and the Daily Star, as well as their websites."

He said the union will fight for members' jobs and "for the future of quality journalism in Wales".

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