Member of the WL&CC: Lee Waters AM/AC

HYPERLOCALS may be set to benefit from £200,000 of funding, which has been approved by the Welsh Assembly Government and Plaid Cymru. WAG and Plaid Cymru have agreed to fund a “start-up grant” for journalists who want to set up their own hyperlocal news business.

The money has been made available from the  Labour-led government’s £210m two-year draft budget agreement, which has been backed by opposition party Plaid Cymru.

Under the plans, £100,000 will be made available each year (2018-19 and 2019-20) to fund hyperlocal news ventures with funding support via Business Wales.

Local journalism has been in trouble for some time with a rapid decline in newspaper sales, job cuts and a drive to place clickbait items over real news into digital editions of newspapers.

Dr Andy Williams, a lecturer at Cardif University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, said the decision was “ground-breaking” but needed to be carried out “smartly” and “very sensitively”.

Dr. Williams has also published a series of essays and submitted evidence to the Welsh Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee’s inquiry into news journalism in Wales.

Dr. Williams highlights what he calls ‘7 shocking local news industry trends which should terrify you’.

The full essay is available here but the following are the seven points in brief.

1. Local newspapers are in serious (and possibly terminal) decline

2.The local news industry is losing money hand over fist

3.Established journalism is rapidly withdrawing from Welsh communities

4.Media plurality is a good thing, but our news is concentrated in the hands of a few big publishers

5.Local news companies now prioritise digital news over print, but make relatively little money from it

6.Local news has become less local, less independent, and of less civic value than previously

7.Digital local news strategies are prioritising profits and clicks over public interest news

Dr Williams recently tweeted:: “Mechanisms for public subsidy for journalism need to be iron-clad independent, and miles away from political influence. Decisions cannot, and should not, be made anywhere near politicians. Totally do-able: precedent already exists with Welsh-language news subsidy.

“Any public money for news should be contestable, to ensure excellence is rewarded over mediocrity. Also, it should be directed at areas of greatest need, to ensure news deficits are addressed (e.g. socially essential public interest reporting, experimentation with new business models).”

He added: “This innovative policy *begins* to level the playing field by giving chance of *some* cash to new players excluded from existing subsidies.”

There is presently an inquiry taking place into news and journalism in Wales, which is being conducted by the Welsh Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

In recent months the committee were told by Peter Curtis of Bay TV that if they wanted to know what the future of journalism was in Wales they should take a look at Llanelli Online.

Lee Waters AM/AC for Llanelli (pictured) is a member of the committee and Llanelli Online will be liaising with the AM to monitor progress on the inquiry and the grant funding.

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