Mari Arthur the Plaid Cymru Llanelli Constituency Secretary has spoken out over plans to allocate £8m of public money to PLC companies including Trinity Mirror in a scheme meant to improve local democracy reporting. The scheme would mean that some hyperlocals could apply for some of the benefits on offer but they would only include the larger organisations who can meet the criteria such as having a pension scheme in place for staff. The reality for the smaller hyperlocals is that they can barely function with volunteers but nonetheless they can be found in local courts and at council meetings reporting on local democracy.
Mari Arthur said: “Plaid Llanelli feel recent independent additions to local journalism enrich reporting on all levels. There is a movement towards hyper local journalism and it is something I am personally keen on supporting. Any public funding should reflect this independent movement that is often reliant on volunteers and good will, small levels of funding would produce wider-reaching results than larger amounts to corporate machines. Local ‘news publishers’ also often represent more unbiased reporting.reporting, with no corporate agenda to fulfil they can be flexible and truthful in reporting on issues without the pressure of corporate and political bias. This is a movement we all benefit from and one I feel we should all get behind.”
The Centre for Community Journalism has called for public funding of community and hyperlocal news publishers to help revive local journalism.
Centre Manager Emma Meese, giving oral evidence at the National Assembly for Wales’s consultation into news journalism, said: “There is still profit to be made from local journalism, just not enough to satisfy the large companies that increasingly dominate the Welsh news landscape.
“That is why start-up funding, targeted at community and hyperlocal journalism could have a large catalytic effect for the sector.
“These publications tackle issues that matter. They report on all aspects of civic life, including courts and council meetings. These micro businesses are agile and entrepreneurial and are vital to ensuring a thriving news sector in Wales.
“We need to ensure that smaller run organisations such as these are no longer disadvantaged in that they cannot access the same level of funding and support as the large traditional newspapers, which have a monopoly across Wales.”