24 July 2014

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Editor hits back in advertising blackout row

A weekly newspaper editor has hit back in the ongoing row over whether his local council imposed an “advertising blackout” on it.

South Wales Guardian editor Mike Lewis claimed last week that the paper had lost out on £9,000 of advertising from Carmarthenshire County Council, since publishing a comment piece criticising the authority in September.

This led to the council launching a scathing attack on the title, saying its claims of an advertising blackout were “nonsense” and branding the paper’s editorial coverage as “biased and unbalanced”.

The paper has now hit back with further articles which seek to refute the council’s statement that commercial reasons were behind the reduction in adverts, because the Guardian had a smaller circulation than rival titles the Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star.

The Guardian said that throughout 2012, the council placed an average of 10 adverts or public notices each month but none had been placed since its critical piece, apart from ones already booked.

This meant that changes to Christmas bin collections and four key traffic notices relating to the Ammanford area were not seen by the Guardian’s readers.

The Guardian’s latest story said it was read by almost 31pc of people in Ammanford and the surrounding area, more than its rivals, and the authority’s figures were based on the whole of Carmarthenshire.

A comment piece by Mike said: “We anticipated County Hall’s response to last week’s front page – and did not have to wait long.

“Their statement – which can be read in full on page 3 – describes the notion of an advertising blackout as ‘nonsense’. But where’s the beef? Where are the hard facts to support this 565-word tirade?

“The council say they are ‘astonished to have read so many incorrect statements on the front page of the Guardian’. List them.

“Biased and unbalanced coverage in a long list of articles? Name them. Numerous complaints and many discussions with myself? Then show us the correspondence or emails to illustrate this supposed litany of unrest.

“Never managed to establish any kind of working relationship with the Guardian under my editorship? Wrong again – the Guardian actually has a very good relationship with the local authority’s press team, all of whom are experienced journalists and one or two I count as personal friends.”

He added that the council have an obligation to the 14,500 ratepayers who read the Guardian each week to ensure they were informed.

In last week’s statement, the council said: “When placing advertising we need to find the best value for money. We cannot simply spend taxpayers’ money with local newspapers to subsidise them and support their running costs. That would be a misuse of our funds.

“It is true that we might sometimes place an advertisement in one local newspaper but not others. We only have a certain amount of money for such purposes and the fact is that The Guardian has a far, far smaller circulation than its rival papers the Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star.

“Surveys that we have carried out over the years show that it is the least widely read of the three local newspapers.”



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