Wednesday 25 July 2012

County Hall and press control - MP's letter to the Leader

Further to my previous post 'MP calls Carmarthenshire Council a 'Dictatorship' I now have a copy of the letter sent earlier this month to the Leader of the Council, Kevin Madge from Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards and AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas. Jonathan Edwards has become something of a champion of the local press recently and a critic of council tactics concerning editorial control. I hope they follow this through and maybe we could finally get some answers as to how this dictatorial behaviour from County Hall has been allowed to continue for so long.

Constituency Office
37 Wind Street
11th July 2012
Cllr K Madge - Leader
Carmarthenshire County Council
County Hall

Dear Councillor Madge,

Withdrawal of County Council advertising in local newspapers

We have been provided with a copy of an e-mail sent from the County Council’s Press Manager in which instructions are given to cancel two advertisements with the South Wales Guardian newspaper on the basis of the paper’s “negative publicity” of the County Council. We understand this follows the paper’s story on possible delays to the regeneration work in Ammanford.

You will no doubt be aware that a number of members of Ammanford Town Council are themselves traders in the town. As democratically elected members of that Town Council, they have every right to state their opinions and make representations on behalf of their electors. The South Wales Guardian, along with other newspaper publications, has the legitimate right to report the business of that and any other Council. As politicians we accept it when newspapers are critical of us. But at the end of the day it is the role of publications like the South Wales Guardian to hold politicians and public authorities to account. The decision by your County Council to remove advertising completely undermines the notion of free press – a founding element of any democracy.

Newspapers right throughout the county are already facing tough economic challenges – not helped by the fact local authorities spend more time and effort producing its own propaganda publications rather than investing in their local print media. The actions by the County Council do nothing but suppress criticism and remove vital funding from these community assets.

We would be grateful to know whether you were aware of this decision; whether you approve of the removal of advertising from the South Wales Guardian; and whether you instructed the Press Manager to take this course of action. If you do not agree with that action, we would be grateful to know what disciplinary action you will be taking on this matter.

We can arrive at no other conclusion than to consider the Council’s bully boy tactics as an outrageous form of blackmail more befitting the sort of actions seen in dictatorships. We look forward to your urgent response.
Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Edwards MP
Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM

The National Union of Journalists has also condemned the council's behaviour;
Council punished weekly for negative coverage
(see also next post)


A watcher said...

It's not uncommon for a council to bully local newspapers. I have identified three tactics they often use, Legal threats, threats to remove advertising revenue and threats to remove cooperation.

Nospin said...

Good on both of them, it isn't dated so i have no idea how long ago it was sent and wonder if they had a reply.

Disciplinary action bet that had them scurrying around, anyway we all realise that is the domain of the chief exec in CCC.

They of course need to follow this up if they are still awaiting a satisfactory response.

caebrwyn said...

@A Watcher Carms CC will undoubtedly use all three.

@Nospin Have now dated the letter - sorry.
I would also be interested to know the details of any response. If they've had one..

Cneifiwr said...

The chances of our Kev putting pen to paper to respond are zero. What we will get is the usual huffing and puffing of management speak, which boiled down means "we have done nothing wrong, and we have no intention of listening to you or anybody else".

caebrwyn said...

@Cneifiwr Exactly. If fact you can read the waffle, from one of the Assistant Chief Execs in my previous post. I guess that's all the answer they're going to get.

Anonymous said...

Llanelli Star reporting today that Kevin Madge has ordered that Sian Caiach be turned back into a proper councillor!

Anonymous said...

When spring cleaning the cobwebs at ceiling level go first and you work downwards. The same cleansing method applies to this dictatorial sham we are led to believe is OUR council.
Let us hope that very soon the clean up begins.