Welsh assembly: Debates are 'grim to watch,' AMs are told

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Media captionKevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror says debates in the Senedd are 'not that exciting'

It is "whistling in the wind" to expect London-based newspapers to take more notice of Welsh politics, a conference in Cardiff Bay has been told.

Commentators warned AMs their debates were "grim to watch" and did little to create interest in what they do.

The event considered the lack of coverage of the assembly, the so called "democratic deficit".

Welsh politicians should use social media more to stimulate debate, former Times journalist Peter Riddell urged

Assembly presiding officer Rosemary Butler, the conference organiser, had warned ahead of it: "We are in danger of sleepwalking towards a media landscape in Wales where there is little or no plurality in the reporting of our political life".

Blogging and Twitter

She complained of a "failure of UK media to appreciate the huge differences in approach to public policy, in devolved fields such as health and education, to its Welsh audiences".

Describing hopes that UK newspapers would feature more Welsh politics as "whistling in the wind", Mr Riddell warned that commercial decisions by them had led to what he called "a downgrading of political news - full stop".

There had been a shift in emphasis towards more stories involving personality clashes, scandals and splits rather than policies, he said.

Mr Riddell suggested more AMs took to blogging and Twitter, which increasing numbers used as their primary source of news.

BBC Parliament controller Peter Knowles warned that there were gaps in people's knowledge and understanding of politics.

'Simplify the language'

He observed assembly debates could be "pretty grim to watch" with AMs using computers during debates rather than paying attention to speakers.

"Heads are down, there is a lot of typing going on," he said.

Kevin Maguire from the Mirror added: "It is as boring as hell, I'm amazed anybody watches it."

The panel were asked for suggestions on how to improve coverage of Welsh politics.

Peter Riddell said: "Simplify the language you use. Use the website to explain things more clearly to people."

Kevin Maguire added: "To every AM - say what you think, be honest and open, and don't be afraid."

Peter Knowles added that during questions to the first minister AMs should "shut their laptops and look up and listen to the debate."

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