Normal blogging service will be resumed as soon as possible, but events involving the blacklisting of the South Wales Guardian have taken another turn with the publication by the council of an extraordinarily bad-tempered and disingenuous press release (here).
Underneath all of the bluster, this press release says two things:
1. The withdrawal of advertising from the Guardian was a purely commercial decision and had nothing to do with the paper's reporting.
2. The council does not like the way the paper reports council news.
The fact that advertising all but ceased when the paper was critical of the council over the Sainsbury's press release at the beginning of September was therefore entirely coincidental, we are asked to believe. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with discussions which were going on in County Hall in July when the manager of the press office was asking the council's marketing department to stop advertising with the Guardian until "issues are resolved" between the council and the newspaper.
That exchange between the press office and the marketing department (both part of the chief executive's fiefdom) was leaked to the press, and assistant chief executive Chris Burns was tasked with explaining matters. He said:
We spend quite a lot with the Guardian and there's no intention to stop
this advertising. As I understand it the trader's concerns were that the
story appeared to suggest that the town was likely to be 'closed for
Christmas'. The article concerned was not, I must
say, particularly critical of the county council and I cannot see any
reason why this would have led to us removing advertising completely.
Only six weeks separated Mr Burns' declaration and the "commercial" decision. At the very least, Mr Burns may feel that his colleagues have undermined his credibility.
As usual, the council rather gives the game away by devoting so much of the press release to saying how much it dislikes being criticised by the newspaper.
Let's imagine for a moment that this was taking place in London, rather than Carmarthenshire, and that 10 Downing Street and the Civil Service had decided that from now on, no government advertising would be placed with the Daily Mirror, Guardian or Independent. Only the Daily Mail and the Sun would be allowed to advertise civil service jobs, etc. It could truthfully say that the Mail enjoyed a much larger readership than the Guardian.
Of course this would never happen, partly perhaps for fear of the reaction by press and public, but also because the government in Westminster, whatever else you may think about it, accepts that newspapers have a right to criticise and scrutinise government decisions, no matter how much it dislikes what they say.
Cneifiwr has no special insight into the finances of the South Wales Guardian, but the loss of council advertising revenue, which now seems to be permanent, could well push the paper under. It is a newspaper with a unique voice which serves its community well, and the Ammanford area would be the poorer without it.
Opposition politicians, bloggers and others can shout and scream until the cows come home, but Kevin Madge, the council leader who is so proud of his Ammanford roots, is the one person who could stop this vindictive campaign in its tracks and call the council's out-of-control officers back in line. He may even realise that the negative publicity on his own doorstep is not doing him any favours.
Over to you, Kev.