The Real Merthyr

Merthyr Tydfil is most often in the news for the wrong reasons.

But statistics about poor health and high unemployment don’t tell the whole story.

In this programme, Merthyr-born reporter Hannah Thomas goes behind the headlines to try to find the true heart of her home town.

One point made, in particular, about the stats that leaves the town on the wrong end of too many league tables is that the size and economic make up of the borough skews the figures.

Because Merthyr is such a tiny unitary authority with many deprived wards and no affluent areas its average is always much lower than anywhere else. In other words it has no wealthy streets to balance things out.

The programme has received an incredible response.

Watch Wales This Week: ‘The Real Merthyr’ here.

999 Frontline

NHS workers across Wales report around 7,000 incidents of violence and aggression every year.
Nurses, doctors, paramedics and other healthcare staff are spat and sworn at, punched, attacked and verbally abused.
And these are just the cases they report.
When I asked an A&E nurse recently how many incidents go unreported she suggested “a huge amount, absolutely huge”.
“Certainly verbal abuse and lots of anti-social behaviour like that. People will urinate up against the walls outside (and) up against equipment. You will give people a bowl because they’re going to be sick. They are quite capable of using that bowl but they’ll vomit on the floor. They’ll choose to spit at you. All of that I would say has gone unreported.”
* ITV Wales current affairs series Wales This Week is featuring a special programme on violence against hospital staff. ‘999 Frontline’ is on ITV Wales, at 7.30pm tonight (Thursday, January 28).

** The programme is available to view here.

Farewell, Studs Terkel

On Friday, the world said goodbye to Studs Terkel.
Studs might not have been so well known on this side of the Atlantic but in the United States they are paying tribute to a “true American hero”.
Studs was a performer, a journalist, an oral historian and a “rabble-rouser”.
McCarthy tried to have him testify against leftist friends; he refused and never compromised on his principles. He was sacked from one job, quickly found another and never stopped working until his death at the age of 96.
Oh, yes, and he picked up a Pulitzer Prize along the way.
While much of his work centred on his beloved Chicago, he was very much for “ordinary” people everywhere, not just in the US.
He recorded the stories of hundreds of people over the years, and was a writer of great compassion and humanity.
He may be gone but his work remains – and will always be worth seeking out for the voice it gave to so many.
“Who built the pyramids?” he once asked. “It wasn’t the goddam pharaohs . . . it was the anonymous slaves.”

Celebrating personal growth

Who couldn’t enjoy Western Mail’s ‘Fast Growth 50’, its magazine round-up of the most successful companies in Wales?
Certainly not Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, academic, Western Mail business guru, creator of the ‘Fast Growth 50’ programme and, yes, blogger.
A full-page of the 34-page magazine is devoted to a celebration of this “passionate champion who is ahead of his time”.
He’s a man of many talents, there is no denying. After all, who was the editor of ‘Fast Growth 50’?
Why, none other than Professor Dylan Jones-Evans!

Big Issue Cymru

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones is to investigate whether The Big Issue – which recently located much of its Wales operation to Scotland – is receiving funding from the Welsh Language Board.
Responding to a letter from Leanne Wood AM outlining her concerns about the company’s decision to make its Wales editor redundant, Mr Jones said he shared her concern about the future of Welsh language content in the magazine.
“I am also concerned with the intention to move Big Issue Cymru jobs to Glasgow,” he said. “It is important to safeguard Welsh language content in the magazine. I will therefore ask the Welsh Language Board to investigate this issue further and will get back to you on this matter.
“I understand that Big Issue Cymru has applied in the past to the Welsh Language Board to fund the Welsh language content in the magazine but there has been no contact recently.”

Everyone a loser in ITV Wales cut-backs

ITV is to be allowed to slash its Welsh programming by more than half in a new blow to the media in Wales.
The proposals come under the second phase of Ofcom’s review into public service broadcasting, launched as the industry prepares for the digital switchover.
One media expert today described Ofcom’s decision as a “lose-lose” situation for ITV staff and for viewers in Wales, while a politician called it a “giant leap backwards for devolution in the UK”.
ITV Wales’ peak-time news output would remain unchanged, but the minimum volume of non-news programmes in Wales will be slashed from the current four hours a week, to just an hour-and-a-half after January.
The proposals will allow the quota for ITV1 programmes produced outside London to be reduced from 50 per cent to 35 per cent.
Ofcom’s Wales director Rhodri Williams said the proposals provided a “sustainable settlement” despite “the extensive economic pressures faced by ITV”.
Few others agree.
Wales’ Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones today expressed “huge concern” at the report.
“It is strongly in the interest of viewers in Wales to retain public service programming from ITV at a realistic level rather than risk losing such delivery altogether,” he said.
“It is a matter of huge concern to me that cutting the services offered by ITV Wales will deprive Welsh citizens from receiving a diverse range of programmes which reflect their everyday lives.
“Welsh audiences, loyal to ITV Wales, could also be deprived from gaining access to information about the democratic institutions which serve them – this, in turn, could affect their level of participation in those political processes.”
Mr Jones wants to meet with UK government ministers to discuss the assembly government’s concerns.
Peter Black AM, culture and media spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, described the decision as “outrageous” and “a giant leap backwards for devolution in the UK”.
“The bottom line for ITV is that they have a public service obligation,” he said. “Quite how much service you can provide in 90 minutes, we will have to see. ITV Wales were pitching their new schedule – which already cut the amount of made in Wales current affairs programming – at around three hours a week. That was already a backward step for the people of Wales. Ninety minutes is a giant leap backwards for devolution in the UK.
“Devolution allows the nations of the UK to do more and more things in a way that is different. While TV is the main source of information people have about the politics of where they live, there can be little justification for cutting the legs from under the ITV Wales operation. There is a real danger of Wales being left with a single broadcasting monopoly.
“The BBC does a great job of reporting Wales to its own people and the world beyond. But without competition, who will keep the BBC on its mettle? Where will the alternative voice come from?
“Plurality of voice matters – Ofcom’s decision shows a regulator unwilling to regulate. It has failed democracy, and it has failed the people of Wales.”
Media professor Tom O’Malley, of the University of Wales, agreed that today’s news revealed a “failure of regulation and a failure of Ofcom”.
Speaking on the BBC, he said: “What’s going to happen is that there will be less programmes about Wales, talking to people in Wales about Wales, it will weaken ITV news in Wales, there will be less plurality of perspectives on it and of course the people who work in ITV in Wales will suffer as well.
“So this is lose-lose all round.”
He called on the Government to force Ofcom to change its attitude to public service broadcasting.

Big Issue Cymru – to be written in Scotland

The Welsh edition of The Big Issue is moving production to its Scottish office.
Two out of its three editorial staff – including its editor Rachel Howells – are being made redundant. The editor of The Big Issue Scotland is to become the editor of both titles.
The decision is a blow to the homeless people who sell the magazine, to the media in Wales and to readers.
Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood has written to Welsh Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones and the Welsh Language Board “to see what pressure they can put on the owners to ensure we don’t lose Big Issue Cymru”.
“The Big Issue Cymru provides news from Wales that you don’t find in many other publications,” she says. “Many people buy it because of its local stories. Big Issue Cymru has played an important role as a campaigning magazine promoting people who don’t have their voices heard. The loss of the Welsh language column is also something which will be felt by a lot of people.
“All of these factors combined could result in fewer people buying the Big Issue in Wales. This is bound to impact on the vendors who are homeless people.”
I have to declare an interest in this. I’ve had a column in Big Issue Cymru for almost four years and will be sad to see Rachel leave.
I haven’t heard from the new regime so don’t know what they plan for the rest of the magazine or how much of it will have any Wales-led content at all.
As Leanne Wood says Big Issue Cymru has often looked at issues which don’t get discussed elsewhere, including ironically the on-going downgrading of our media in Wales.