Media job cuts in Wales ‘threat’ to democracy, says FM

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Media cuts will be damaging to Welsh democracy, says Mark Drakeford

Newspaper groups and bosses at the BBC have been asked to reconsider job cuts in Wales by the first minister.

Mark Drakeford said proposals by Reach, Newsquest and BBC Cymru Wales will harm democracy.

Reach, which owns the Western Mail and Daily Post, is cutting 550 jobs across the UK, while Newsquest is losing 25 posts at its Welsh titles, including the South Wales Argus.

About 60 jobs are also expected to go across BBC Wales to save £4.5m.

Mr Drakeford said he was concerned because a “democracy needs a strong media”.

He said media was needed to hold elected representatives to account and to let voters know what was happening, including playing “a crucial role” during the coronavirus crisis.

“That’s why I am concerned several media groups have recently announced plans to cut jobs,” said the first minister.

“Any further cuts to the media in Wales will be damaging to Welsh democracy. The Welsh Government urges those groups to rethink their plans.”

Reach, which owns national titles such as the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star and the OK! Magazine stable, also publishes a wide selection of regional local newspapers in Wales.

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Reach says revenues dropped by 30% in June during the covid lockdown

It is also responsible for the Wales Online and North Wales Live news sites.

It announced on Tuesday it needed to reduce staffing by 12%, after witnessing revenue drop by 30% in June, during the coronavirus lockdown.

Newsquest, which is the second largest publisher of regional papers in the UK, is cutting 23 of 164 posts at its centre in Newport, according to the National Union of Journalists.

In addition to the South Wales Argus, it produces the Western Telegraph, South Wales Guardian, The Leader, Tivyside Advertiser and Pembrokeshire Farmer.

A further two of its reporting posts will go in north Wales.

Reach executives said award-winning journalism would “always be at the heart of our business”.

“The recent changes have been made to protect our newsbrands. We are very proud of our titles in Wales and know the vital role they play in a democratic society,” said a spokeswoman.

Newsquest declined a request to comment on the first minister’s statement.

Officials at BBC Cymru Wales said coronavirus has caused significant disruption to income and created extra cost pressures.

BBC executives said there would be “difficult choices” ahead, but they will aim to “minimise the impact” while aiming to continue to deliver high quality services.

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