Last week Ofcom invited interested parties to bid for local TV services in 30 areas across the UK, including Bangor and Mold. The watchdog has also re-advertised the Swansea Local TV licence, which failed to secure an operator in the first round of bidders.
The AM said Local TV would do nothing to address the structural deficiencies in the Welsh media scene. He criticised money being ‘wasted’ on a model of Local TV whilst funding for BBC Wales and S4C has been cut back and the future structure of the Channel Three licence in Wales is yet to be decided.
The AM called for the money to be put to more productive use such as funding journalism apprenticeships in Wales.
Mr Skates said: “Unfortunately the story of Local TV in Wales has been a difficult one from the very start. Vital money has been top-sliced off the licence fee to pay for a vanity project that doesn’t address any of the fundamental problems in the Welsh media.
“The farce over the Swansea licence, which produced no bidders at all first time round, highlights the problem with the core idea. If nobody thinks a station can be commercially viable in a large urban area such as Swansea, how can it then be a viable success in Bangor or Mold?
“Local TV is in no way a substitute or adequate replacement for Welsh commercial television. We have a deficit of coverage of national Welsh issues in our media and it seems wrong that at a time when funding for BBC Wales and S4C has been cut back and the future structure of the Channel Three licence in Wales is yet to be decided, attention is being directed towards Local TV.
“I’ve spoken to quite a few senior media figures with years of experience and the vast majority of them tell me that this will not work, particularly when advertising revenues are making it tough even for the established players.
“It’s heart-breaking in a way, when revenue is declining in all areas of the media and good people in broadcast journalism, local newspapers and the creative industries are losing their jobs, that public money is being wasted in this way.
“I’d much prefer the funding be used to strengthen the Welsh media in ways that will last such as funding more apprenticeship schemes for journalists or increasing the amount of dedicated Welsh programming on our screens.
“Developing top-down local television services at a time when advertising revenue in the commercial Welsh media is haemorrhaging really is an idea only Jeremy Hunt could have dreamt up.”