A controversial ‘news’ website which is backed by public funds and claims it serves all the people of Wales whose ‘Editor’ lectures in ‘journalism’, wants Welsh independence and has Plaid Cymru (PC) supporters, did not run a story covered widely elsewhere that the party had failed properly to declare campaigning cash but did publish details undermining another group, The Eye can disclose.
At the same time as failing to cover the news that PC did not declare large amounts of money, Nation.Cymru (NC) published a piece about the Tory party showing it in an extremely bad light, yet the site claims it is a “News service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales”, and receives an enormous grant from the Books Council of Wales.
Some readers of NC have said the site is “biased”.
The lengthy ‘report’ on contentious NC about the Conservative Party proclaimed: “More than half of donations received by new Conservative MPs in Wales came from secretive fundraising clubs based in the south-east of England”.
On the NC Facebook site one critic said: “It’s a biased online site for some of the people of Wales”.
Another said: “If people are going to criticise one group they need to consider the actions of others, otherwise its called hypocrisy… we need to ensure all sides play by the rules”.
Yet the story that NC omitted to cover, but received huge media attention in other outlets, was that PC had been fined tens of thousands of pounds after not declaring money from public coffers.
This was The BBC report: “Plaid Cymru has been fined £29,000 for failing to report cash it received from taxpayers’ funds worth nearly £500,000.
“The Electoral Commission said over a two-year period Plaid had omitted 36 separate sums from quarterly reports.
“Plaid had failed to declare cash from the House of Commons authorities, and some cash from the Electoral Commission.”
The ‘Editor’ of the site which did not publish those details has also faced other controversies.
The CV of Ifan Morgan Jones, states: “I am the BA Journalism Course Leader at the School of Creative Studies and Media at Bangor University, and lecture on the subject of practical journalism”.
But nowhere in the details is mentioned qualifications by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), the accepted body for formally accrediting journalists.
At least one of his books has been ‘relisted’ on ebay which says: “If your item doesn’t sell the first time you list it”.
Dr Jones has said on Twitter our disclosures of strong links to PC were “just nonsense”.
He told a critic: “I set it up myself off my own bat.”.
But Dr Jones should know as a lecturer in ‘journalism’ at Bangor University’s Department of Creative Studies and Media, on a course which is not accredited by the NCTJ, that everything published is supported by a raft of unseen evidence.
In his ‘journalist’ lectures Mr Jones presumably tells his students about the laws of libel, that everything published is governed by them, and that reporters have a large amount of evidence to back up each line.
On The Eye we have many years of experience in journalist law – our Editor Phil Parry has more than 36 – and are very aware of what can and cannot be published.
Dr Jones himself published on Facebook last December a picture of a postal ballot paper with his pen pointing at the PC candidate, and has posted a photograph of himself and his partner above the slogan “I’m voting Plaid Cymru”.
In July 2016 he helped promote a rally for Welsh independence in Caernarfon and said that Wales: “faced being part of a state which (is) being politically neglected”.
Last September an opinion piece was published in which he said: “In an independent Wales, the future of our nation wouldn’t be decided by politicians completely removed from our concerns, like gods playing dice with our fate on the summit of Mount Olympus”.
Dr Jones adds about his website : “Much of the current money we do have to spend is due to support through the kindness of the Welsh Books Council.
“But such public money is thin on the ground, and ideally, no news site should be dependent on grants that, in the current financial climate, may not last forever.”
Meanwhile the Books Council of Wales (BCW) declares: “The Books Council of Wales is a national body, funded by the Welsh Government, which provides a focus for the publishing industry in Wales.”
And: “The Books Council of Wales is a unique, national organisation with no direct comparisons. It has grown organically, responding to the particular needs of Wales.”
Dr Jones has worked as deputy editor for the Welsh magazine Golwg, and as an editor of the news website Golwg 360.
It is evident that he sees NC as a great success, and wrote on the site in January: “… the success Nation.Cymru has enjoyed… was beyond my wildest dreams…”
Even so Dr Jones says that NC is keen to receive more cash, and on his website he has urged readers: “If just everyone who had attended the Yes Cymru march (in support of Welsh independence) over the last year gave us £5 a month we would be raising over half a million pounds a year”.
Recent opinion polls have not been good news for him, as the results have had to be ‘spun’.
A St David’s Day poll this month was ‘reported’ in NC with the headline saying that “Support for Welsh independence has risen again”, because it was at 11 per cent whereas last year it was seven per cent.
The BCW too has made headlines. In 2013 it was reported in the UK media, that over the five years before, the BCW had received £39m of taxpayers’ money, with another £3.85m going to Literature Wales (LW).
In the same year a spokesman for WG said funding for the BCW had been cut to £4.1m and added: “This funding is channelled towards supporting the publishing industry in both Welsh and English languages.
“Detailed monitoring arrangements are in place to ensure that this funding is spent appropriately.
“Book sales through the Welsh Books Council distribution centre saw an increase in the last financial year which is very encouraging given the current financial climate.”
Meanwhile the Welsh Government (WG) has just announced £750,000 of additional funding for the Books Council of Wales (BCW) to invest in a new digital system to manage the sale, supply and distribution of books.
The BCW will also receive additional capital funding of £145,000 during the current financial year.
The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism (formerly a leading figure in PC), Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said that he was “delighted” to support the BCW to invest in this sector of the Welsh economy.
“This will be a significant boost to the Books Council of Wales but also the whole publishing industry in Wales,” he said.
Yet critics claim that NC (which is based in Aberystwyth) has a partisan political agenda.
A site subsidised by the taxpayer claiming it is a “news service for all the people of Wales” may attract unwelcome headlines when it does not report that PC has been fined yet does cover a damaging story for the Conservative Party and is accused of being “biased”.
But perhaps NC won’t report that..