Media bosses accused of 'hollowing' papers of Welsh news

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Image caption Newspaper bosses were accused of failures of management at a Senedd inquiry

Newspaper bosses were accused of "hollowing out" Welsh output at an inquiry by the Senedd's culture committee.

Western Mail and WalesOnline owner Reach is planning to make about 20 staff at the titles and other Welsh papers redundant in a restructure.

The company said Covid-19 hastened the need for change.

Labour committee member Alun Davies MS accused Reach of "failures of management" with local titles.

Two of the firm's Wales-based managers gave evidence to the inquiry.

Reach chief operating officer Alan Edmunds and Media Wales editor-in-chief Paul Rowland defended a restructure which has put 90 Welsh jobs at risk.

Reach also publishes the Daily Post, North Wales Live, the South Wales Echo, the South Wales Evening Post and weekly titles including the Gwent Gazette.

Blaenau Gwent MS, Alun Davies, said: "You have hollowed out the Celtic titles over the last decade or so."

He said he used to queue for the Gwent Gazette but had bought it twice last year.

Mr Davies said the paper was now "completely irrelevant".

"It has been made irrelevant by the failures of management," he said.

These "failures", Mr Davies said, meant people in "large parts" of south Wales no longer understood places they lived.

Mr Rowland said developing reader habits and "market forces" made change necessary.

He said the business had made "difficult decisions on titles relative to their abilities to drive revenues".

The growth of WalesOnline as readers switched to digital was remarkable, he claimed.

The National Union of Journalists told the inquiry a system would be introduced where Welsh stories were overseen by sub-editors in England and a "shared content" department would provide news to papers and websites across the UK.

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Image caption Media Wales' headquarters in Cardiff

Western Mail chief reporter and union rep Martin Shipton said he feared Welsh news would be replaced by generic features written in England.

"We are concerned about the dilution of Welsh content," he said.

"And we think that is counter-productive from a business point of view."

He warned people would not buy products they did not deem good value.

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