Any discussion of politics and particularly accountability in Wales will quickly reach a comment about the Welsh media. Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is little independent Welsh media. Leading Welsh think tank, the Institute of Welsh Affairs keeps this issue under close scrutiny with its media audits – regular deep dives into the state of the sector in Wales. In evidence to the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee inquiry into news journalism in Wales in 2017 it said:
Our most recent Media Audit (November 2015) found that whilst the availability of media communications had significantly improved since the 2008 audit, the position regarding content for audiences across Wales was considerably worse. While there have been substantial increases in Welsh audiences’ ability to access news through a range of digital platforms, this has not compensated for a reduction in the forensic capacity of Welsh Journalism as resources and revenue options continue to shrink. The primary issues relating to news journalism in Wales are sustainability and plurality. It is becoming more difficult for Wales to retain its visibility to itself and portray the reality of relevant issues beyond its borders to the rest of the UK, and further afield.
This means there is little journalistic scrutiny of the actions of Welsh politicians and a poor understanding amongst Welsh voters as to how decisions are taken.
The situation is compounded by the prevalence of London-based media and its failure to differentiate between decisions taken by different governments. A BBC Wales Poll marking 15 years of devolution found that 43% and 31% of respondents thought health and education respectively were the UK government’s responsibility, while 42% of people wrongly believed policing was an Assembly matter (BBC News, 2014).