Political boffin, keen fisherman looking forward to retirement.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Election fever.....in Scotland

Before anyone starts accusing me of obsessing with Scotland, it’s difficult for me as a Welsh patriot not to be equally excited about events in our sister country. This is not only ‘cause the SNP are steamrolling ahead; it’s not even ‘cause of the far reaching implications an SNP victory, let alone a referendum victory on independence, would have on politics here in Wales – something no one to my knowledge seems to have commented on; but basically you can’t escape it. Supported by daily polls, the profile of the Scottish elections is on a different planet to here.

The key difference in Scotland of course is the existence of a distinct separate media. A multitude of daily papers have been building up the election for the best part of a year; there have already been two leadership TV contests (including one by Sky) – and there is still a month to go; Newsnight Scotland offers a nightly avenue for Scottish based political debate. Put simply there are ample opportunities for politicians to engage with the electorate via the media.

The situation in Wales can not be any different. The Western Mail and the Daily Post have a combined circulation of less than 100,000. The Welsh political programmes are watched by less people than follow Caerbryn football club (trust me that’s not a lot) –due to the slots available (Who except for a complete political hack is going to watch Waterfront at 11ish on a Thursday night?); admittedly during election month the BBC are providing some coverage – but local radio stations are eroding BBC radio figures and most of the eastern half of Wales get their signal from across the border meaning they don’t watch BBC Wales or HTV Wales news. Basically the Welsh news agenda is set in London mostly and they won’t care about Wales until independence is imminent.

The fault doesn’t lie at the hands of the Welsh based media of course, they can only work within the context they are given. As usual these decisions are made in London.

As Wales develops politically it is essential that we also see the growth of a distinct and powerful media in Wales. The main news programme should be based in Wales offering national and international coverage and the London papers should at the very least employ a Welsh correspondent and preferably Welsh editions or Welsh versions.
Together politicians and the Welsh media can complement each other as Wales develops as a political entity.

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