Saturday 28 September 2013

Press Review


For a Pembrokeshire view of the pensions tax dodge scandal, take a look at the Pembrokeshire Herald (story here) and an excellent piece by Cllr Jacob Williams (here). Both cast an interesting light on the story, and Jacob Williams in particular raises a number of questions which are just as pertinent to Carmarthenshire.

When the Herald was launched it said it would refuse to play along with the cosy arrangements which have grown up between councils and the local press, which can be summarised as council advertising revenue in return for docility.

In Carmarthenshire things have gone even further, with the Carmarthen Journal in particular abandoning any pretence of editorial independence. The strategy which took final shape during the brief editorship of Jonathan Roberts is to shelter under the protective skirts of the county council in the hope that this will guarantee the paper's long-term survival. After all, so the thinking goes, are readers really interested in the goings on at their local council?

The Herald in Pembrokeshire and the South Wales Guardian in Carmarthenshire may well show their bigger rivals that independence and integrity offer a greater guarantee of survival.


The council pensions scandal in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and the Appointed Auditor's refusal to sign off Carmarthenshire County Council's accounts because of what he considers to be unlawful expenditure are big news, and have been hitting the headlines in BBC news bulletins. But what about the newspapers and online media read by people in Carmarthenshire?

The most obvious place to start is the council's own online news service. Carmarthenshire County Council has one of the largest press and PR operations anywhere in Wales, and it justifies these costly services by saying that they are needed to ensure the council gets decent and fair news coverage.

Carmarthenshire residents turning to the council's website to see what it has to say about events of the last few days will find nothing whatsoever about the audit row, but may perhaps enjoy reading

Winner Gavin meets Sid - star of the Cwmhendy Dog Show

No luck there, then. So what about the Carmarthen Journal? Log on to the newspaper's website, and star billing as "The Big Story" goes to a piece about police investigations into a case of alleged slavery at a farm between Cardiff and Newport.

The council scandal does not feature in any of the top stories on the newspaper's website, although it does find space to report on a fatal road accident involving Jacqui Thompson. The grief and trauma suffered by those involved in this terrible accident are of lesser importance in the newspaper's treatment of the story than the fact that she is a blogger.

Anyone wanting to read what the paper has to say will have to drill down into the website to retrieve a story which, apart from a couple of brief introductory paragraphs explaining the background, is a cut and paste of a press release which the council sent out to the media. There is no report at all on the audit committee meeting held on Friday.

Moving on to the Western Mail, readers of the newspaper's website will find a range of stories on the home page, including pieces about the privatisation of Royal Mail, Only Men Aloud, a property development in Cardiff, Strictly Come Dancing and MTV's "The Valleys". The closest we come to Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire is a story about Ironman Wales 2013, which was held in Pembrokeshire.

Searches on Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire retrieve nothing at all about the council scandals, although there is a piece about the ongoing row in Caerphilly.

The only newspaper to report on yesterday's audit committee meeting in Carmarthen and to give it space on its home page is the South Wales Guardian.

The Guardian's report is both detailed and interesting, with quotes from most of the key players.

Readers will recall that the newspaper found itself blacklisted by the County Council last year for its "negative"  reporting.

Clearly County Hall would much prefer the newspaper to stick to reporting dog shows.


Anonymous said...

40 Thousand pound Council or 8.5 million for parking ina Hywel DDa hospital.

"Our papers go on about neither"

If 8.5 million does interest the press 40 grand has no chance.

Anonymous said...

Carmarthenshire County Council's PR department reminds me of that run by Herr Goebbels in Nazi Germany in the
1939 - 1945 war.......

Anonymous said...

Can this mean an end to the Dyfed Pention fund. The body that covers many like Dyfed Powys Police Authority, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Local Colleges, Pembrokeshire and Ceridigion Councils and many other admin bodies.
It brags on its web site that it is involved in every stage of your menbership so it cant be just the EXEC board to blame.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 20:32 you might be amazed to learn that I have nearly 4 years worth of pension frozen in the Dyfed Pension Fund and only ever hear from them when there are government changes. Can you advise me where on the website you read, "... it is involved in every stage of your membership." This certainly wasn't my experience during my years service! I wonder if the lack of communication had something to do with me being much further down the golden ladder!

Anonymous said...

First go to Dyfed Pension Fund web site.
Secondly click 'about us' then bottom paragraph.

If you wonder off and look at the Disclaimer ( worthless really but still its there ) it goes on to say - No responsilbility by the pention fund for the contents of there pages.
Id rather go to the bottom of the page and hit "N" on the glossery.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon 11:55. I think the disclaimer says it all really!