The managing director of Media Wales, Alan Edmunds, has emphatically denied the company is planning to turn the Western Mail into a weekly newspaper.
His comments come a week after owner Trinity Mirror announced it was converting sister-title the Liverpool Daily Post to a weekly in the New Year.
The move led to increased speculation the same could happen at the Western Mail – Wales’ only national daily – and earlier this month the local NUJ chapel claimed it could occur in a ‘relatively short space of time”.
Today Edmunds said the Daily Post (which sells 8,217 copies) was a ‘completely separate paper’from the Western Mail (which sells 26,931) and that ‘you would look at each newspaper on its own merits”.
‘I can categorically say that we have absolutely no plans, no intention, of turning the Western Mail weekly,’he told an inquiry into the Welsh media.
He added: ‘We have never discussed turning the Western Mail weekly and we have absolutely no plans to do so.”
Asked if the company would consider the move if circulation of the Mail, which Edmunds also edits, continued to fall – it was down 8.9 per cent in the first six months of the year – he replied: ‘It’s a hypothetical question and I can’t envisage a scenario where it would make business sense for us to turn it weekly.”
Media Wales, which also publishes the South Wales Echo and seven weekly titles in the South Wales valleys, could begin charging for content online, Edmunds revealed to the inquiry.
‘We don’t have any specific plans at the minute but obviously as you face the challenges I just described about growing revenues then it could be that there may be scope for charging for some niche or specialist content,’he said.
In his defence of the state of the country’s media, Edmunds told the panel that there’s ‘nothing specifically Welsh’about falling circulation and that it was an issue ‘across Britain and in fact across the world”.
He described Wales Online as a ‘huge success story for Wales’given the fact it had built ‘from scratch a website with more than a million unique users a month”, and said that without it Wales ‘would be a poorer place”.
Asked if his newsrooms were overstretched by recent editorial cuts, including 22 editorial redundancies this summer, he replied: ‘When I entered newspapers there were some journalists who didn’t work very much at all.
‘That isn’t the case now. The culture is a very hard working one, a very professional one.”
He continued: ‘The idea that journalists don’t have time to do their job, I don’t accept at all.”
Edmunds insisted journalism in Wales was of the ‘highest standard”, adding: ‘Why people often want to talk that down is beyond me.
‘I think some of the standard of journalism that we are currently seeing is as high as anything we’ve seen in the past.
‘I don’t look back in the past and see great regional journalism that isn’t being replicated now.”