CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has called on the Welsh Government to develop new guidelines with the public sector about how it spends advertising money.
The AM said recent cutbacks in the print media in Wales should prompt a strategic re-think in how bodies such as the Welsh Government, the National Assembly, the NHS, Councils and other public sector bodies use advertising budgets.
He said where appropriate, public sector advertising spend should be used to support local newspapers that were being ‘hollowed out’ by the decline in other advertising revenue. The move, he said, would help better inform the public and stabilise print revenues.
KEN SKATES AM, who recently chaired an Assembly Task and Finish Group into the media in Wales, said:
“From road traffic orders to job adverts through to public notices and recycling information, millions of pounds is spent every single year by the Welsh Government, our NHS, local councils and other public sector bodies in advertising and communicating with the public.
“However at the same time we also see a lot of confusion amongst the public about where to find this important information. That is why we need clearer guidelines about how and where public money spent on advertising in the twenty first century can be most effectively targeted.
“If local papers, both online and in print, became the place where important local information about healthcare reforms, traffic information, job adverts or changes to important services such as refuse collection was housed, then the public would be much better informed.
“In turn we’d also be able to help and support good local journalism by helping give local newspapers a fighting chance to get through these difficult years of transition when advertising spend has moved to a multitude of different sources.
“We’ve had a lot of focus recently about the way in which public procurement can be used to support local businesses. I don’t see why we can’t do the same with local newspapers.
“We see a lot of duplication and poor communication at the moment with big public sector organisations trying to bypass local newspapers. However, this hollowing out of newspapers as sources of information comes back to haunt councils or the NHS when they can’t get their message across to voters about important policies or major service changes.
“The public sector isn’t there to subsidise local newspapers, but having a coherent code that structured advertising spend could help both parties.
“We need to start seeing good journalism as a community good that needs to be supported. If the platform for strong local and regional journalism disappears without anything to take its place then scrutiny of public life in Wales will become much poorer.”