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    30 January, 2005

    Is gossip taking over from journalism?

    ITV Wales interviewed me on Friday for a discussion on Waterfront today about the departure of some people from the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) recently. The ITV argument appears to be that this is some kind of brain-drain caused by the abolition of the WDA as a quango. Yet several senior WDA executives left in the years of the previous Chief Executive and that was never called a brain-drain.

    ITV Wales has simply taken up the spin of the Opposition parties who are aghast at the popularity of Labour's plans to abolish or reform the quangos. In most cases they can't argue against the policy so instead they are arguing about process. Unison, the union representing the workforce at the WDA, believes that the merger process has been an exemplar of good practice in dealing with change.

    From the day of the announcement, staff and their union reps have been involved at every level in discussions about the future. In a change process it is natural for staff to feel some concern about the future however Unison agree that the handling of the merger process has mitigated this. Unison do not agree that there is widespread disaffection among WDA staff, nor do they not agree that there is lower staff morale in the WDA as a result of the announcement that the WDA will be merged with the government.

    Meanwhile, Hilary Hendy, one of the senior executives leaving the WDA, about whom the opposition are making so much fuss, has explicitly told her own staff "This was a choice, a difficult one, but one freely made. Don’t listen to any other interpretation – they are not true. Neither is my going a reflection or implied comment on the merger."

    The political media in Wales gets too obsessed with personalities and gossip. In the States they talk about the 'Inside the Beltway' agenda of Washington politics. In Wales, we have the 'Bayway' agenda: the journalists need to get out of Cardiff Bay more often.

    I didn't see the Waterfront interview in the end, as ITV keeps moving the programme's start time. It was 12.45 before Christmas, then it moved to 12.15. Today it was 11.30. We all expect cuts in ITV Wales non-news output. It scarcely shows signs of ITV's commitment to regional current affairs when they can't even guarantee their flagship a regular slot.

    1 comment:

    David said...

    A problem, Leighton, with quangos' functions being absorbed into the Assembly is that accountability and management gets no better. Look at the supposed 'investigation' of the fixed 100 Welsh Heroes poll (cost: £154,000). It was nothing of the sort and the explanatory letter from the guy in charge was laughable.

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