Update 23 January
The South Wales Guardian is reporting that the County Council has lifted its advertising blockade and has placed its first adverts with the paper for months. Strange then that only last month the Council issued a long press statement saying that the advertising moratorium was purely a commercial decision. Perhaps they think we all have the memory span of a goldfish.
The reality is probably that the council realised it was on dodgy legal ground, and calculates that a "stop-go" approach to advertising bans for bad behaviour may be a better option.
If reports reaching Cneifiwr are correct, householders in Carmarthenshire who recycle their copies of the council's propaganda rag, Carmarthenshire News, as cat litter or hamster bedding can this month expect a bonus in the form of an additional glossy supplement in the same plastic covers to mark the latest re-launch of the Carmarthen Journal, also affectionately known as the James Journal.
Some readers may recall that when the council first started producing its own newspaper, the Carmarthen Journal helped things along by distributing the council rag free along with copies of its own newspaper. As the council's ambitions and control-freakery grew, the Journal realised that it had been fostering a cuckoo in the nest, and collaboration ceased, but by then it was too late because the council realised that it could use the threat of withdrawal of advertising revenue to ensure a friendly editorial line in the local press.
Both the Journal and its sister paper, the Llanelli Star, have maintained a wall of silence about the council's interference in editorial policy, and anyone inquiring has been told that there is no truth in the claims, but former staff have confirmed that they were told that it had come down to a straight choice between independent and sometimes critical reporting of council news, and losing advertising revenue equivalent to the papers' monthly wage bills.
The truth of the matter is plain enough to anyone who reads the Journal and Star. No stories which show the council in a bad light are printed. There is no editorial criticism of any council decision, no matter how daft or wrong. No letters from members of the public which criticise the council are allowed to appear. There are a good many examples of stories which have been taken straight, without question and unchecked, from the council's press office, and others which appear to have been planted by County Hall. Not to mention the two page spreads and in-depth "interviews" with the Chief Executive and leading luminaries such as Meryl Gravell which have become a regular feature in the two papers.
The new proprietors of the the Journal and Star have decided that money is a great deal more important than editorial integrity, but they may have made a serious miscalculation. A good many newspaper readers know when they are being fed propaganda, and they don't like it.
The next set of circulation figures will make for interesting reading.
Meanwhile things have gone full circle for the once proud Carmarthen Journal which is rumoured to be having to pay a hefty sum to the council to have its glossy supplement delivered along with the council newspaper it helped bring to life.