Major news about a website’s closure and withdrawal of taxpayer funding for it which was meant to have lasted at least another three years, comes after disturbing revelations about the man originally behind the website by our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry who spent 23 years with the BBC.
During 39 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon and won numerous awards), Phil has broken any number of stories.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo (SWE) office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
Once again important details have surfaced which could be linked to disclosures I made on The Eye.
The huge organisation Newsquest Media Group (NMG) has confirmed the closure of the ‘news’ website Corgi.Cymru (CC), saying the project was not “economically sustainable”.
The termination of the service comes just two months after NMG had also announced the axing of The National Wales (TNW), a primarily English-launguage title launched on St David’s Day 2021.
As the Western Mail (WM) reported about its demise: “There are calls for a review of how £100,000 of public money was given to support the launch of a Welsh language news service that is to close five months later”.
CC was first set up in April by the controversial ‘comedian’ and failed media ‘executive’ Huw Marshall (who was also involved in starting TNW), while the public grant was made through the Books Council of Wales (BCW).
It was one of two grants from them to fund Welsh language digital news services. The other was given to the established operator Golwg360, with each site due to receive £100,000 a year until 2026.
Yet I showed how Mr Marshall had made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse prominent Welsh politicians on social media, was placed under police investigation, tried to finish off this website, and had been officially reprimanded.
To give him lots of taxpayers’ money with this kind of background seems bizarre in the extreme!
I have no evidence whatsoever to support the contention that my exposure of these appalling details is connected with the withdrawal of the funds, and shutdown of CC, however the timing seems suspicious.
The revelation was made by my journalists in September, and news about the axing of his one-time site as well as the grant for it, emerged a month later.
Gavin Thompson, NMG’s regional editor for Wales, said the publisher was grateful to BCW for its support “…which enabled the launch of Corgi Cymru earlier this year. Unfortunately, it became clear that even with Books Council support and given the challenging economic environment, building a new Welsh-language proposition at this time would not be economically sustainable”.
BCW endorsed this statement, although it said it was stopping the funding. Helgard Krause, the organisation’s Chief Executive declared: “After careful consideration and discussion, the Books Council and Newsquest have agreed that it is in the best interest of both parties to discontinue our funding agreement and close the Corgi Cymru digital news service at the end of October”.
Perhaps those behind these headline-grabbing events will have known that two people had died and a police officer lost the sight in both eyes when rampaging gunman Raoul Moat shot them, yet despite this on July 8, 2010 – with him trying to escape from armed police – the man originally behind the site they gave their grant to (Mr Marshall) published a message on his Facebook (FB) page, reading: “Hi I’m a sexy 19 year old blond (sic) from the North East of England looking for some fun.
Following many other offensive comments, Mr Marshall was told off by Twitter because an account “violated the Twitter Rules”, and a further one, “Welsh Bollocks”, had also broken their regulations.
The abuse from him of senior politicians, came nine years ago, with one of his remarks hurled at the Labour MS and minister Ken Skates, while another was directed at the former Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black. After Mr Skates tweeted in celebration of a one-vote council by-election victory over Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) in Ruabon, Mr Marshall (who has himself stood for PC) referred to him in his own tweet as a “gloating t**t”, and he described Mr Black as a “humourless (sic) t..t”, as well as a “dull, tedious t..t”.
Apart from these sorts of remarks and the Twitter admonishment, it is thought that Mr Marshall may also have been responsible for sending unwanted takeaways to people’s homes, as well as other misdeeds.
In response to the police inquiry into his actions, Mr Marshall said on Twitter that he had told South Wales Police (SWP) he intended to make a complaint, however officers answered by informing him that they had a “responsibility to investigate any reports”.
Following The Eye bringing this out, along with many of Mr Marshall’s other previous controversies, he attempted to have us closed down, alleging “violent threats and harassment”, when there have been no threats of violence from my journalists, and the only harassment has come from him after he used social media to dub senior Welsh politicians “t**ts”, and me a “liar”.
But interesting, high-profile characters backed another of Mr Marshall’s unsuccessful ventures (TNW), even while there were accusations that ‘stories’ in it had been lifted from other publications.
The headline-grabbing Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) member for Blaenau Gwent, and former Welsh Government (WG) minister, Alun Davies, MS, proclaimed on Twitter before the launch of TNW “Well. I wish you best of luck with this initiative. Anything to strengthen our news environment should receive a warm welcome”.
A ‘warm welcome’ was given, too, to the ‘pilot’ for it which was also wished “Best of luck” by WG minister Lee Waters, although he seemed to have changed his tune when he actually read it. Mr Waters (a former producer on the BBC Cymru Wales [BBC CW] radio programme Good Morning Wales [GMW]) stated on FB: “Well I’ve just bought a copy and think its pretty dull”.
Another reader of the paper’s first edition (who is also a prominent journalist) said: “It (TNW) starts with worthy statements about how we deserve better fearless, independent and unintimidated media in Wales and should be happy to pay for it then gives us a timid, third rate product filled mainly with political comment from compromised sources who wouldn’t know a truth if it whacked them over the head with a cricket bat.”
Clearly Mr Marshall has support, despite the fact that he has been investigated by the police, insulted senior Welsh politicians, and tried to silence another independent website.
The senior Welsh journalist Tim Hartley tweeted: “Quite properly shamed into subscribing. Good luck with the campaign Huw and the crew”. Mr Hartley is also a firm football fan (like Mr Marshall), and even recorded a song (with others), supporting the Wales team at the World Cup in Qatar, before flying out there, despite the fact that being gay is unlawful in the country
It is also set against the gay academic and former Welsh football international, Laura Mcallister, being told to remove her rainbow bucket hat by a stadium steward in Qatar.
In one FB post a day before the tournament kicked off, and including a link to a Guardian piece featuring Daffydd Iwan’s ‘Yma o Hid’, he said: “People are finally ‘getting’ why we bang on about football, Wales, identity and the language. Diolch am hyn Donald. Mr Hartley also changed his cover photo to one that celebrated the Qatar World Cup, and posted pictures on his FB page from inside the stadium before or during the Wales game against USA.
In another, though, he appeared to have become disillusioned with the organisation of the World Cup, and posted: “Great atmos in the ground but getting back was a real drag. Hotels, prices, beer and bucket hats. I’m talking all things Wales Away on Radio 4s Today programme this morning at 0720”.
Perhaps he was impressed by Mr Marshall’s grand statements, such as this one: “A free and independent media is the lifeblood of any democracy…”.
However it appears that inquiries by ‘free and independent’ The Eye (unsupported by the taxpayer), are unwelcome to Mr Marshall as he approached a specialist internet company in his fruitless attempt to shut us down.
Evidently he does not know his journalist libel law either (which may, possibly, have contributed to the winding-up of his TNW), because Mr Marshall has said on Twitter that I am a ‘liar’ and an “obsessive coward”, linking the inaccurate comments to an earlier piece I had written about the scheme. Mr Marshall has also called me a “self proclaimed journalist”, which may not be libellous but is provably wrong as I trained to be a journalist in 1983 on the best newspaper course in the UK before moving into television, and I have won an enormous number of awards.
Mr Marshall has said, as well, that he has a number of different Twitter accounts, but stesses he reserves one for items which may bother me, declaring: “@marshallmedia is where I post Everton related stuff and things that upsets Phil Parry”, which was the account which “violated the Twitter rules”.
This is not the first time that action has been taken following my pieces either.
I showed how a PC councillor had posted a picture of himself on social media brandishing a gun, saying he was keeping out English people, and that a former member of what is now the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) (Lindsay Whittle), ‘loved’ it.
Following the furore, and publication of a letter from the council leader accusing PC of endorsing xenophobia, the Welsh nationalist party were shamed into launching an investigation.
When the letter went public, Mr Price said the complaint against Caerphilly councillor Whittle would go through the party’s membership, ‘discipline and standards process’.
But this came weeks AFTER I had disclosed that a senior figure in his OWN party, and former member of what is now the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), showed his ‘love’ of the controversial social media post which made headlines across the UK.
The ‘heart’ emoji (one up from a ‘thumbs-up’ ‘like’) was posted on FB by ex-leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council (CCBC), Mr Whittle, and the picture with accompanying message was placed under police investigation.
The photograph he ‘loved’, was by Councillor Jon Scriven who has formally apologised, and been suspended by PC, after publishing it on the same site. It portrayed him on a beach holding the rifle, saying: “Ogmore-by-Sea tonight for a quick swim and make sure there wasn’t any English people trying to cross the channel”.
His colleague on CCBC, Cllr Whittle, was a member of the National Assembly for Wales (forerunner of the WP/SC), representing the South Wales East region for PC, from 2011 to 2016. But the post was highly contentious, and came hard on the heels of another huge scandal involving the party – letting back in disgraced MP, Jonathan Edwards, who was cautioned by the police for assaulting his wife, although he decided not to take the group whip in Westminster.
The post by Cllr Scriven of him holding a gun, which was uncovered by The Eye, caused an enormous storm, in the media, legally, and in the political world.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats (WLD) stated: “There is a clear implication of violence and xenophobia”, and the leader of the Welsh Conservatives (WC) in the WP/SC (Andrew RT Davies) stated that he was “Speechless”. Labour member of the WP/SC for Caerphilly, Hefin David, described the post as “…incredibly concerning. We should be seeking to unite people and address real concerns like the cost of living, not post disturbing images that are calculated to divide us”.
PC pronounced grandly that the post was inappropriate, and Cllr Scriven was indeed suspended pending an ‘investigation’. South Wales Police (SWP), meanwhile, confirmed that an allegation of “malicious communications” had been lodged. Officers said they were “aware of a post on social media featuring a man brandishing what looks like a rifle at Ogmore-by-Sea”.
Cllr Scriven said sorry for what he had done, and said online: “I would like to apologise for my now deleted Facebook post”. Yet despite this apology, the story about his post broken first by The Eye, was already being followed up in the mainstream media.
In the hours which came afterwards, the website WalesOnline (WO), published: “A social media post surfaced online which showed Jon Scriven posing with a gun”. Other ‘stories’, though, were deemed more important and given greater prominence on the site, such as one headlined: “Three-year-old egged in face by yobs leaving her bruised and sobbing”.
The BBC said: “Police are investigating a social media post which appeared to show a Plaid Cymru councillor posing with a gun to make sure there weren’t “any English people trying to cross the channel””. The Guardian reported that:“Police are investigating a social media post from a Plaid Cymru councillor apparently posing with a rifle near a Welsh beach and commenting that he was checking “there wasn’t any English people trying to cross””. The Daily Telegraph wrote: “A Welsh nationalist councillor is being investigated by police after posing with what looked like a gun and saying he was stopping “any English people trying to cross” the Bristol Channel”.
LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation), The Independent, Sky, Mail and the Express carried the story, with the latter’s opening paragraph being: “Officers at South Wales Police are investigating a report of malicious communications after a post appeared on Plaid Cymru councillor Jon Scriven’s Facebook page”. Even The Bolton News covered details of the extraordinary saga.
Andrew RT Davies leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the WP/SC since last year, was incensed. He re-posted the photograph, proclaiming that he had become:“Speechless. This is a @Plaid_Cymru councillor. @Adamprice (the leader of PC) cannot let another scandal rage on without decisive action. This sort of xenophobic attitude is beneath us.”.
The scandal Mr Davies refers to, is about Mr Edwards being let back in to the party following what had happened. Soon after this story hit the news, I showed that before the 2015 General Election (GE), Mr Price’s predecessor as head of PC (Leanne Wood), had written (on Twitter): “… Re-elect the fantastic Jonathan Edwards in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.”.
It is also fantastic that action is taken following my stories, such as stopping giving thousands of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money to a website founded by a man who had made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse prominent Welsh politicians on social media, was placed under police investigation, tried to close down an investigative website, and was officially reprimanded.
BUT IT SHOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Details of Phil’s astonishing award-winning journalistic career (including revealing facts that others would rather keep hidden), as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in an important book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now! Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – how an official report which was published about the media in Wales, drew on the ‘expertise’ of Mr Marshall, and another who founded a website that has been accused online of “bias” in favour of PC, while a different critic said that key workers had been threatened because of what was given on it.