Page last updated at 05:52 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 06:52 UK

Call to relax media owner rules

The Western Mail
The assembly government is urged to advertise in local papers

Cross-media ownership rules should be relaxed in order to ensure the future of Welsh newspapers, a cross-party assembly committee has said.

But members also want assurances that steps are taken to ensure there is a variety of sources of local news.

The report from the assembly's broadcasting sub-committee said if no action is taken, newspapers in Wales could face extinction.

A media union said it would have job concerns if such rules were relaxed.

Following its three month inquiry, the committee of AMs now wants the Welsh Assembly Government to lobby MPs to get the cross-ownership rules relaxed.

Currently there is a national and regional 20% rule when it comes to media ownership, which is set by the UK government.

The danger is we could find ourselves in a downward spiral where mergers result in the loss of jobs
Martin Shipton, NUJ chapel, Media Wales

In January, Alan Edmunds, editorial director of Media Wales, which controls the Western Mail, South Wales Echo and weekly titles in south Wales, told the committee that competition laws needed to be relaxed.

Martin Shipton, who is the head of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) branch for Media Wales in Cardiff, said if such rules were relaxed, there needed to be a "firm commitment" made by the media companies to the future of newspapers and broadcasting outlets.

"We are fighting for the continuation of an essential part of our democracy," he said.

"The danger is we could find ourselves in a downward spiral where mergers result in the loss of jobs."

'Valuable contribution'

The broadcasting sub-committee also wants the assembly government to consider giving money to English language newspapers as they do with Welsh medium journalism.

Putting more adverts into local papers would be a simple way for the assembly government to support them, said the committee.

Committee chair Dai Lloyd said the survival of the Welsh newspaper industry was dependent upon "rapid evolution and reaction to these pressures".

"What is clear is that if no action is taken on any level by any stakeholders, the newspaper industry in Wales could well face extinction," he said.

"Any successful solutions are likely to be equally wide-ranging and we hope the newspaper industry and governments act quickly and appropriately to safeguard newspapers in Wales and the valuable contribution they make."

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