By Clive Betts
The Western Mail and the Welsh Assembly have fallen out again, this time over a columnist’s article attacking gay politicians.
Prominent assembly members have been critical of the alleged down-marketing of the Mail and the assembly’s culture committee has been investigating the claimed dominance of the country’s media enjoyed by its publisher, Trinity Mirror.
The spat has now moved to a new field, with the assembly’s equal opportunities committee getting hot under the collar with columnist Lowri Turner’s article, "However much I love my gay friends, I don’t want them running the country".
This article — additional to her usual column — was given prominence on the two pages covering the Lib Dem leadership election, and flagged by a banner above the splash.
Committee chair Gwenda Thomas twice invited editor Alan Edmunds — who had earlier sacked culture minister Alun Pugh as a columnist after he had criticised the WM’s standards — to attend "to justify your decision to publish the article and perhaps to understand why members believe such articles are detrimental to the objective of promoting equality of opportunity to all people".
After receiving the second invitation, Edmunds said: "This is a democracy, and it is not the role of the National Assembly to hold editors to account for the content of their newspapers. In my view, this would be a dangerous and unhealthy precedent for Wales."
Edmunds said a columnist’s job was to be challenging. Turner’s views were not necessarily the paper’s, and there was "no intention to offend". A "significant number" of letters of disagreement had been printed.