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Newquest abandons Welsh Language website after receiving £100k of public money

WELSH language website The ‘Corgi Cymru’ will shut down at the end of October, just five months after launch, Herald.Wales understands.

In a huge blow to Welsh language media, Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru and Newsquest have agreed to end the funding and provision of the Welsh news service.

The news follows the closure of Corgi Cymru’s English language sister site The National Wales this summer, after Newsquest said the site had become “unsustainable”.

Corgi Cymru was only launched in April this year, and was expected to receive a grant of £100,000 a year over a period of four years, administered by the Welsh Books Council.

The £100,000 received by the news site was half of the grant previously given to the news site Golwg360, leading to staff cuts at the latter Lampeter-based news service.

The Books Council said that they and Newsquest had reached a joint agreement to propose closing Corgi Cymru’s digital channels at the end of this month, and allow the service to be discontinued over the following month.

One full-time and one part-time job are now at risk, and a consultation will take place with affected staff at Newsquest, starting today.

Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council, said: “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.

“We have been in regular contact with Newsquest over the last few weeks and we are sorry to see Corgi Cymru close, but we do understand that circumstances have changed since the grant was awarded, due to the very challenging current environment. Our thoughts are with the staff who are affected by this decision.”

Gavin Thompson, Regional Editor at Newsquest added: “We are grateful to the Books Council for their 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.

“We have been engaged in constructive discussions over the future of the service in recent weeks, following the closure of The National Wales. We will begin a consultation process with affected staff, starting today.”

As we have previously reported, The National Wales website was originally set up after a Patreon crowdfunder by digital marketer Huw Marshall under the title of ‘New Media Wales’.

Thousands were raised, with Herald editor Thomas Sinclair being one of the first funders, giving £600 to the cause of starting indepednent media for Wales – paying £50 per month for twelve months.

However Marshall partnered with Newsquest to launch the site – a subsidiary of the US-based Gannett Media – and decided not to work with independent media around Wales.

Strangely, however, Gavin Thompson confirmed that Newsquest had received no money from New Media Wales. What happened to the thousands raised is unknown.

Marshall promised Sinclair a refund for not fulfilling promises made about New Media Wales’ independent direction – but the refund money was never received, the Sinclair confirmed.

Newsquest later launched the sister Welsh site, Corgi Cymru, with £100k of funding from the Welsh Books Council.

The national publishing firm, headquarted in London, also runs the Western Telegraph in Pembrokeshire, and The Leader in Wrexham to the South Wales Argus in Newport.

Herald editor Tom Sinclair said: “Newsquest have egg on their face after failing with not just one but two national websites in just a short space of time.

“As Wales’ largest independent news organisation, The Herald News UK Ltd continues to invesst in both English and Welsh content on its national website herald.wales, and is currently expanding our operation throughout the whole of Wales rather than turning our back on readers at a time when the provision of reliable sources of news online has never been more important.”