Who knew that the Welsh government was handing out six-figure subsidies to local news providers?
News that it provided a £246,000 grant to Newsquest in 2015 has only come out today, after Press Gazette was tipped off about out about a line buried deep within a spreadsheet sitting on a remote part of the Welsh government website.
- January 16, 2019
- January 14, 2019
- January 3, 2019
Press Gazette would normally applaud any support for the news industry, but what a strange way to go about giving it.
The Newport subbing hub was set up to enable Newsquest to outsource jobs and cut costs elsewhere in its regional press empire (on titles in England and Scotland).
It is worth noting Newsquest reported profit of £69m on turnover of £279m in the year it received this Welsh government handout.
It secured such high returns for its US owners Gannett by cutting some 228 staff that year, many of them no doubt sub-editors who were judged surplus to requirements because of the creation of the Newport subbing hub.
According to the Welsh government the grant was provided to safeguard jobs at the site. Since the payment was made some 70 jobs have been cut and the subbing centre is set to close altogether in April.
There are substantial Welsh towns that do not have a local newspaper or professional journalists covering them, such as Neath and Port Talbot (combined population 70,000) since their newspapers were closed by Trinity Mirror in 2009.
That £246,000 could have provided seed funding for ten hyperlocal websites operated by publisher/reporters who could have started filling the news gaps left by the erosion of local media across Wales.
Instead, the Welsh government quietly used the money to help a regional press giant cut journalism jobs elsewhere in the UK in order to improve its already impressive profits.
What a scandalous misuse of public money.
Picture: Port Talbot steelworks (credit: Reuters)