A free newspaper costs the council over £80,000 to print 1,860,000 copies and distribute them across the city. The Capital Times is Cardiff Council’s free bilingual monthly newspaper informing residents of the council’s doings and regularly runs surveys about council services.
A freedom of information request reveals the newspaper cost £231,663 in 2013-14 to produce and was funded up to 64 per cent through the advertising revenue it generates. But at a time when the council is cutting social services to save £41m in this year’s budget, it is still costing £82,508 to produce the newspaper.
The Capital Times has 12 editions a year, and in 2013-14 the distribution of the printed copies cost £215,235. In 2014-2015, only six editions were printed and the rest of the editions were available to download for free as an online newspaper.
David Walker, Conservative councillor for Lisvane, said: “The problem is that the party who runs the council use the Capital Times for promoting itself. It always lead with the statements from a cabinet member and that is obviously promoting the individual and promoting the party. They have started to put alternative issues online and I can’t see why they can’t put all of them online. The cost of publication is not part of what the council can afford and it could use that money more effectively.”
Jayne Cowan, Independent councillor for Rhiwbina, said: “The question of the cost of the Capital Times came on the agenda of a Scrutiny Committee meeting a few months ago. We were actually told if the Capital Times was published in hard copies, it would generate an income to the council. It is a waste of money and [the council] can disseminate information much better. I think the Capital Times could be deleted and more information could be shared electronically but there should be hard copies in public libraries for people who don’t have access to the internet.”
Paul Byers, who has lived in Cathays for nearly 35 years, said: “For myself, it offers a minimal source of new information and I tend to find the spin and the clichés pretty repetitive. But I tend not to use much printed material nowadays anyway. I think the council leadership, both politicians and officer, are struggling with community engagement in a modern age, and I don’t think they know where Capital Times fits in or what purpose it serves.”
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “The Capital Times is the highest circulating paper in Wales and has been commended and won Chartered Institute of Public relations awards in the past. “It is regularly rated by 80% of readers as being good or very good for design and content and is also rated as a more trusted form of news about the Council than traditional media sources. However, as the Council’s budget continues to face huge cuts moving forward a case will have to be made each year to ensure it offers value for money for the Council moving forward.”
In 2014, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, warned against the potential competition taxpayers-funded newspapers could become for local press and set out a range of provisions to regulate their frequency, content and appearance.
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