Wales politics

Welsh media call to solve 'farcical' lack of political knowledge

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Image caption New sources of news could improve awareness and scrutiny of Welsh politics, Dr Evans says

Wales needs more "innovative" grassroots media to help explain how the nation works and hold those in power to account, an academic has said.

Dr Daniel Evans of Cardiff University said there was a "farcical situation" where people did not know who ran what, leading to a lack of scrutiny.

He pointed to findings that fewer than 5% of Welsh people read Welsh papers.

The assembly could play a part in supporting services such as blogs and hyperlocal websites, he added.

"Welsh people simply don't hear anything about Wales or Welsh politics," Dr Evans wrote in an article for the Open Democracy website.

"The general lack of coverage about the Welsh assembly or Welsh policy distinctiveness has led to a farcical situation whereby no one knows who does what, who is in charge of what, and so on.

"In my own field of education research, for example, teachers have told me how they are frequently confronted by upset parents scared about changes to education, unaware that the changes they have seen on the news only apply to England.

"This lack of information directly contributes to political disengagement and the uniquely low election turnout in Wales, as well as undermining the Assembly and devolution itself."

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Image caption Welsh people are far more likely to read a London-based newspaper than one produced in Wales, research in 2016 found

Dr Evans said the lack of a "truly national" Welsh newspaper led people to rely more heavily on the BBC.

However, he claimed that spending cuts on English language programming meant the corporation was "failing to accurately represent Wales".

As far as the solutions go, Dr Evans told BBC Wales he would like to see more "non-statist" media emerge, like the Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia blogs in Scotland and Welsh examples such as the Jac o' the North blog and the Grangetown community website in Cardiff.

Many new media organisations had been able to raise money for equipment from crowdfunding, he added.

Dr Evans said he also disagreed with people who said there was "no future" for print media, saying: "The Herald group is doing interesting things in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire."

In November, Presiding Officer Elin Jones announced a digital taskforce headed by former minister Leighton Andrews to examine ways of promoting and explaining the assembly's activities through social media and other platforms.

Her predecessor, Dame Rosemary Butler, warned in 2012 of a "democratic deficit" caused by cuts at the BBC and the decline of the regional and local newspaper industry.

While stressing the need for independent scrutiny of Welsh politics, Dr Evans accepted there may be a role for the assembly to support local media.

"I'm not a fan of state intervention, but there could be some sort of pot of money to help fund the local press," he said.

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