I have accepted three urgent questions under Standing Order 12.66 and I call on Bethan Jenkins to ask the first urgent question.
Yes. I had a meeting today with the management team of Trinity Mirror South Wales, where I raised this worrying matter and expressed my concern at the proposal to close the Cardiff printing press.
Thank you. You’ll appreciate that, as Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, I have an interest in this particular area, given that we will be carrying out more work as a committee over the next five years into looking at the landscape of the media in Wales and the retention and development of journalists, and the work that surrounds journalists here in Wales. We were told when they opened this new printing press around 13 years ago that they would be able to secure more printing jobs as a result of this new set-up, as opposed to fewer possibilities for the future. So, can you tell me, as part of your discussions with them, why this turnaround has come about, how the staff in Cardiff will be supported, and where will those Welsh daily and weekly newspapers be printed in future? I would have thought, with the acquisition of Local World, which the ‘South Wales Evening Post’ is part of in my region, that there would be more of a case for that printing press to be retained and sustained in Wales so that we can see a future for journalism. My final question in all of this is: what are your concerns, therefore, if this is a printing press that is leaving Wales, and how does this speak for the future of journalism in Wales when we are already suffering from a democratic deficit here?
Can I thank the Member for her questions and say that I couldn’t agree more with her concerns? I also recognise the important work of her committee and the increasing importance that it will take in the coming years in analysing the media landscape and the important role that the print media plays. This proposal is currently out to consultation and I will be responding formally. Unfortunately, as the Member may be aware, it is not a decision that is being taken here in Wales locally or by the Media Wales team. Instead, it’s being taken by another company within the Trinity Mirror group. So, I’ll be making direct representation to that company, in which I’ll be seeking assurance over the future employment of those people who would be affected if closure goes ahead. It’s my understanding, based on the discussions that I had with the local team today, that printing would be concentrated and consolidated in three presses in England, those being Watford, Birmingham and Oxford, which is clearly unacceptable given the significance of the newspapers that are currently printed in Cardiff to south Wales. Now, unfortunately, there is a trend in consolidating printing presses across the UK, and we’re witnessing this as sales of newspapers fall and activity instead moves towards an online presence. That said, it is absolutely essential—and the member will recognise that this is a long-standing argument—that the print media recognises a need to be realistic in the profits that it expects to return in the twenty-first century. In being more realistic, it should take greater account of those people who are employed in printing and in journalism within those newspaper groups, whether they are owned by Welsh companies or owned by British companies.
I thank the Cabinet Secretary.