A council dubbed the “Ministry of Spin” by a recently-launched weekly newspaper is examining its media protocols after a government review.
As previously reported by HoldtheFrontPage, the Welsh Local Government Association had told Carmarthenshire County Council to “respect” the role of local newspapers in a report into transparency at the authority.
The report expressed concern at how the authority had dealt with local journalists following several run-ins between its officials, members of the press and local bloggers in recent years.
This week a review of the council’s press and media protocol was presented to its executive board and will now go before the full council.
Last Friday, the Carmarthenshire Herald ran a front page editorial, pictured above, in which it claimed the authority had “sought to bully and intimidate” the press – a reference to the council withdrawing advertising from the South Wales Guardian in 2012 following a critical article.
The edition also carried an article by blogger Jacqui Thompson, in which she claimed the council had “attempted to deter investigative journalism”.
She was ordered to pay £25,000 damages to the chief executive after losing a libel suit in March 2013 and had been arrested two years prior to that for filming a council meeting.
In its editorial, the Herald claimed: “In Carmarthenshire, the council has sought to bully and intimidate the press by either threatening to cut off its advertising revenue or actually cutting its expenditure in local press.
“Using its financial muscle it has encouraged other pubic sector bodies with which it has a relationship to do likewise.
“The Herald will not be bought off or bullied into submission, however, and if misguided people within the council think it will they need to know we will not rest in pursuing real news stories and investigating real issues.”
Among the WLGA’s specific recommendations from the report, which was published in November, were that the council clarified its policy on advertising through local media and reviewed its approach on public engagement.
Cllr Pam Palmer, the council’s executive board member with responsibility for communications, said: “The policy and resources scrutiny committee have been reviewing the press and media protocol – as they review all policies from time to time – and a cross-party working group was set up for this purpose.
“It is now going through the political process, and will go to full council in due course.”