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Council told to show more 'respect' to local press

A council accused of giving “one sided, party political and confrontational” press statements has been told to “respect” the role of local newspapers.

A report by the Welsh Local Government Association expressed “concern” at the way Carmarthenshire County Council deals with local journalists in a report into transparency at the authority.

It includes allegations that the council, which is run by an Independent-Labour coalition, threatened to withdraw planned advertising from local newspapers due to disagreements over editorial coverage.

The review comes after several run-ins between journalists, bloggers and the authority in recent years.

In December 2012 South Wales Guardian then-editor Mike Lewis accused the authority of acting like “some Eastern bloc state from the 1960s” after it withdrew advertising following a critical article.

Then in March 2013 blogger Jacqui Thompson, who had been arrested two years previously for filming a council meeting, was ordered to pay £25,000 damages to the chief executive after losing a libel suit.

The report states: “The review team heard concerns that the council’s press statements were one sided, party political and confrontational on occasion.

“The review team also heard concerning suggestions that the council had previously threatened to withdraw planned advertising from local newspapers due to disagreements over editorial coverage, though these suggestions are contested by others.

“Whatever the evidence for the different perspectives held, the review team considers that constructive engagement with local media should be a key priority for the Council in delivering its ambition around openness and transparency.”

Among those interviewed as part of the review were Carmarthen Journal editor Emma Bryant and South Wales Guardian editor Steve Adams.

The report also urged an “open and transparent” authority to respect the role of an independent press in its duty to scrutinise, investigate and provide critical narrative and challenge to both the council and its executive.

It adds: “Whilst the executive working through the press office will properly seek to ensure that the views of the council and its executive are accurately reported, the executive of an open and transparent council will not seek to suppress or censor the activity of an independent press and media.

“It is critical in the interests of openness and transparency and engaging with the wider community of Carmarthenshire however that a mutual respect and constructive relationship is maintained.”

Among the WLGA’s specific recommendations were that the council clarified its policy on advertising through local media and review its approach on public engagement.


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  • November 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Of course no “editor” has ever given his favoured local councillor or MP acres of room for unchallenged propaganda, watered down criticism or even sidelined a good story. Thank goodness for that.

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  • November 14, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    As far as ‘critical narrative’ and ‘challenge to both the council and its executive’ goes, Wirral Council get a very easy time of it from one particular newspaper, as do Trinity Mirror, publishers of the Liverpool Echo and the Wirral News, cosy partners in what looks like some sort of sordid deal that’s been set up.

    The Wirral News have not printed any Wirral Council scandal since February 2013, whereas a week rarely passes without the Wirral Globe reporting in detail on the latest immoral behaviour indulged in by a long term basket case organisation which claims to be somehow “improved” and newly open and transparent.

    A quick scan of the gifts and hospitalities of council leader Councillor Phil Davies will reveal that he has accepted football tickets, meals and drinky-poos from none other than….

    ….Trinity Mirror.

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  • November 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Oh, and the Wirral News hands over a whole page for the contributions of four local MPs, three of them Labour (the council is Labour).

    Also featured are the musings of Councillor Steve Foulkes, the former leader who was portfolio holder for Social Services at a time when £736,756.97 was nicked from the bank accounts of learning disabled people over a nine year period. Many of these people are no longer with us.

    Despite a so-called ‘independent’ investigation – done by somebody with a prior connection to the council (Anna Klonowski Associates) which perversely failed to include councillors, he dodged any accountability and has been elevated to Mayor.

    Insultingly, Trinity Mirror, through the Wirral News, didn’t see a problem in rewarding him with a platform in their pages.

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  • November 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Bias not confined to Labour. Some southern papers give blatant plugs to Tories. In one case a story against an MP appeared in every national but not in his weekly, on instructions of out to lunch editor.

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  • November 16, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Seems we read the same articles Paul. However councils are still legally required to put certain public notices in one or more newspapers in the area. Some of the rest of their advertising is discretionary and if there is more than one newspaper covering the area, can be put in a rival publication.

    However case law shows that local councils can’t switch advertising based on editorial coverage about those councils in the same publication. It’s classed as an unlawful interference with freedom of speecg.

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