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Pure West manager Toby Ellis tells MPs its been ‘impossible’ for him to get a local FM licence

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THE WELSH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE met in Parliament this week to discuss radio broadcasting in Wales (Mar 1).

Toby Ellis, Station Manager, Director and Broadcaster, Pure West Radio was joined by Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio and Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting as witnesses for Wednesday’s morning session.

Chaired Preseli MP by Stephen Crabb, the two hour meeting provided an interesting insight into the state of radio broadcasting in Wales, and more importantly the challenges of keeping radio relevant to local listeners at a time when many larger broadcasters were amalgamating output across multiple stations to cut costs.

During the session it became obvious that things need to change in Wales when it comes to radio broadcasting, and that the status quo could no be maintained. All the witnesses said that the regulator Ofcom could be doing a lot more to support the future of radio services in Wales, ecpecially when it comes to providing licences to new up and coming stations

Toby Ellis was the first in the hot seat. Asked why Pure West Radio was not on FM, and was relying on internet broadcasting, he explained it was down to red tape.

Toby Ellis said: “We haven’t been able to put an application in; that has been the issue.

“Ofcom told us that there has been no community licence available in Pembrokeshire for you . There is no local commercial radio licence, because that is already occupied until 2025.

“That is it, there is no opportunity for you. However, you can apply for a small-scale DAB, but that rollout has taken some time.

“We’re waiting on the award on that – its exciting because we will be able to explore the DAB market. That’s great – but what about FM – you’ve said you’re not turning it off until 2030 and you’re not opening any FM licences in community or local radio – that is a problem.

Asked if he thought that the government regulator was the problem facing radio broadcasters in Wales, Mr Ellis said: “There are problems with Ofcom. We understand their vision and where it needs to go – but certainly stations like ours have suffered.

“We’re coming up to our fifth birthday on April 4 – its been a huge uphill struggle for us from day dot. Have I been deterred a few times – yes many-a-time. I could stack shelves in Tesco and have less stress and probably earn a lot more money.

“We do it because we are passionate about what we do, and we get a lot of people who get incredibly galvanised by it… There shouldn’t be the constraints we’re having.

“We should be able to access more people and if we had an FM licence we would be more self sufficient – we would create more jobs and we would be able to do what we do better.”
Toby Ellis said if his company had a licence he would have more revenue, and he would be more free from “financial constraints” and do more locally including creating a radio academy and launching a B-Tech in Pembrokeshire College.

“We do not want to go begging for money, when money should be spent in other areas. The NHS locally is in an awful state. The waiting times in our local A&E are shocking. I’d rather that money is spent on nurses than local radio. We can get by – with the correct licences and support from Ofcom and government we would certainly be able to flourish further.”

In summary, anyone wanting to start a community radio station in Wales is stuck with using the internet to broadcast, or local DAB radio – which is not yet operational in all areas of Wales. This is expensive, and for Pure West Radio they would need to rent space on two tranmitters to cover the whole of Pembrokeshire.

FM, while is still surives, would be the cheaper and more viable option for Pure West.

The next witness was Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio, based in South Wales. He echoed what Mr Ellis had said and confirmed that Ofcom was not issuing any FM licences, instead concentrating on small-scale DAB, at the behest of the government.

NATION RADIO

The last witness was Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting. Chair Stephen Crabb MP asked him how local radio was now.

Stephen Crabb asked: “The vision which Toby Ellis outlined regards a strong role for start up stations serving their communities with real time information communicated to very local audiences, does that have a future in local radio?”

Mr Mumford explained that Nation Radio started in Pembrokeshire over 20 years ago with Radio Pembrokeshire and has been expanding ever since. He explained that nation was operating as much outside Wales as it does in Wales.

“We have been hindered in our expansion because of the lack of radio frequency. Small scale DAB is order-of-the-day
Mr Mumford explained that five years ago 90% of revenue for Nation’s radio stations came from ad sales made by an ‘army of salespeople’ – but that has now shifted to 50%, with the other 50% coming from advertising agencies. He also said that programmatic advertising – advertising through a smart speaker which is tailored to you – is something that Nation are now looking to in the near future..

Mr Mumford also explained that music requirements for radio stations should be done away with. He said that Radio Pembrokeshire has a licence requirement to play pop music – and for example if they wanted to play a classical track they were not allowed. Stephen Crabb agreed – saying that it should be scrapped but the requirement for local news should be kept.

Asked by Stephen Crabb what his definition of local news was, Mr Mumford said that he thought that local news was provided on a national level on his stations in Wales – He said that BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru – which cost £24m per year to operate do news on a Wales-wide level and therefore he felt it was not for Nation to do things more locally if the BBC weren’t

HONOUR TO BE INVITED

Speaking after the Parliamentary session Toby Ellis posted on social media, saying: “Why isn’t Pure West Radio on FM or DAB? A question I get asked on a regular basis. Simply we can’t get a licence, today I went right to the top as I got to ask this question to MPs at the Houses of Parliament at an enquiry into local radio in Wales.

“It was an honour to be invited to give evidence and was a wonderful surprise to have Megan Absalom-Lowe from Haverfordwest High Radio and her family showing support at the hearing.

“We have hopefully been heard loud and clear so we can truly put the local back into local radio and get on the radio waves!”

Toby Ellis, Megan Absalom-Lowe and Mathew Rickard at The Houses of Parliament

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Farming

Pembrokeshire farming couple honoured at Downing Street reception

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MIKE and Joy Smith from Pembrokeshire were among the select few invited to a prestigious reception at 10 Downing Street, recognising their outstanding contribution to farming and food production. The couple, who are well-regarded pillars of the local farming community, were nominated by Stephen Crabb MP to attend the event which celebrated Food and Farming Champions across the nation.

Farming is more than just an occupation in rural communities like Pembrokeshire; it is a way of life that has sustained families for generations. The Smiths, who farm in partnership with their brothers at Parc Y Marl near Llysyfran and Pelcomb Farm near Haverfordwest respectively, embody the dedication and passion that characterise this vital industry.

Their commitment to fostering the next generation of farmers and ensuring the sustainability of the sector is well acknowledged. “It was a real pleasure to nominate my good friends and outstanding Pembrokeshire farming couple, Mike and Joy Smith, to attend a reception for Food and Farming Champions in 10 Downing Street today,” said Stephen Crabb, expressing his pride in the couple’s achievements and their significant role in feeding the nation.

Before the celebration at No. 10, the Smiths were treated to an exclusive tour of the Houses of Parliament. They had the unique opportunity to watch live debates from the viewing galleries, witnessing firsthand the legislative process in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The recognition of Mike and Joy Smith serves as a reminder of the critical role farmers play in maintaining the supply of local produce and sustaining the agricultural heritage of regions like Pembrokeshire. Their story is a testament to the hard work, resilience, and community spirit that underpin the farming industry.

As the local community and indeed the nation continue to benefit from the dedication of farmers like Mike and Joy, the message is clear: without farmers, there is no food. The recognition at Downing Street not only honours their personal contributions but also shines a light on the broader significance of farming in ensuring food security and preserving rural ways of life.

Stephen Crabb MP, in acknowledging the contributions of the Smiths and the wider farming community, extended his gratitude: “Thank you to Mike, Joy, and all farmers in Pembrokeshire for your role in helping to keep local produce on our plates.” This sentiment resonates with the appreciation felt by those who understand the importance of farming to our daily lives and the fabric of rural communities across the UK.

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Farming

Thousands of farmers descend on Cardiff to say: ‘Enough is enough!’

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THOUSANDS of farmers and supporters converged outside the Senedd in Cardiff, Wales, to voice their strong opposition to the Welsh Government’s proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and other contentious issues threatening the agricultural sector. The protest, marked by a sea of placards bearing the stark message “No Farmers, No Food,” highlighted the depth of the farming community’s fears for its future.

The demonstration, the latest in a month-long series of actions across Wales, saw farmers, many arriving on tractors, gather to contest plans they argue would compel them to sacrifice a significant portion of their land for environmental purposes. With estimates suggesting that the scheme could lead to 5,500 job losses, the stakes for the agricultural community and rural Wales are high.

Despite police estimates putting the crowd at around 3,000, below the anticipated 10,000 to 20,000, the turnout was a record for a protest of this nature outside the Welsh Parliament. The demonstration saw a mix of solemnity and spirited resistance, with the Welsh song ‘Yma O Hyd’ resonating amongst the crowd, symbolising steadfastness and resilience.

At the demonstration, notable figures lent their voices to the farmers’ cause. Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, was seen engaging with protesters, underscoring the political dimensions of the dispute.

Sam Kurtz MS, from Pembrokeshire, addressing the protest

Sam Kurtz, another Conservative MS, told the crowd that he was a farmer’s son. He told the gathering that he would fight tirelessly for the farming community.

Afterwards he told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “It was the proudest moment of my life addressing the farmers in Cardiff Bay today. Made prouder still that my father was there.

“The momentum is with the industry now and whomever becomes Wales’ next First Minister, and next Rural Affairs Minister, must work hard on the SFS, NVZs, and Bovine Tb, to repair a broken relationship between government and the agricultural sector.

“Can I thank all those who attended the protest for the respect and order that they showed.

“It was the largest of its kind and if the message hasn’t got through to the Welsh Government now, I’m not sure it ever will.”

Tractors lined the outskirts of Cardiff as the protest took place

Perhaps more movingly, Nigel Owens, renowned former international rugby referee and a farmer himself, addressed the crowd from the Senedd steps. Owens, comparing the protest’s significance to his experience refereeing the 2015 World Cup final, underscored the fundamental role of farming: “There can be no Six Nations game in Cardiff next Saturday against France if there is no referee. There can be no food on the table if there are no farmers.”

The protest was not just a platform for airing grievances but also a moment for collective expression of a deep-seated love for farming and the rural way of life. Ioan Humphreys, a fifth-generation farmer, poignantly articulated this sentiment, emphasizing the fight for the future of young farmers and the unity required to overcome current challenges. “I’m also here to make sure as farmers stick together and unite through this time of hardship,” Humphreys stated, capturing the protest’s spirit of solidarity.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, reiterated the essential bond between Wales and its agricultural heartland, advocating for government support at all levels to ensure the vitality of rural Wales. His call for action highlighted the broader implications of the proposed changes, touching on the sustainability of rural communities, biodiversity, and the Welsh economy at large.

The protest, while a manifestation of immediate concerns over the SFS, also brought to the fore ongoing frustrations with the Welsh Government’s anti-water pollution measures and the persistent challenge of TB in cattle. The demonstration’s peaceful nature, emphasized by South Wales Police’s statement, belied the deep undercurrents of anxiety and determination among the farming community.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s interaction with the rural community at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno, where he assured farmers of his support, underscores the national significance of the issues at stake. Meanwhile, the Welsh Government’s assurance of its willingness to listen and adapt the proposed scheme following consultation reflects the dynamic and contentious process of policy-making in areas critical to national interest and well-being.

As the protest unfolded, with wellington boots symbolically placed in front of speakers, the agricultural community’s message was clear: the future of farming, and by extension, the fabric of rural Wales, hangs in the balance. The collective call for support, understanding, and meaningful engagement from the government resonated beyond the steps of the Senedd, touching the hearts of many across Wales and beyond.

This convergence of farmers at the Senedd, while a significant moment, represents just one chapter in an ongoing dialogue between the agricultural community and policymakers. As Wales navigates the complexities of environmental conservation, economic sustainability, and rural livelihoods, the voices of those gathered in Cardiff Bay will undoubtedly continue to echo in the halls of power, reminding all of the indispensable value of farmers to the nation’s past, present, and future.

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Business

McDonald’s thanks Milford Haven after a busy first day

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MC DONALD’S new restaurant in Milford Haven, which opened its doors for the first time today, February 28th, at 11am, has already become a hit with the locals, thanks to an overwhelming turnout.

The opening day saw the restaurant bustling with patrons eager to check out the new location.

Reflecting on the day, the McDonald’s team extended a warm message of gratitude. A spokesperson said: “Wow, you came to see us in your droves today!

“We certainly tried our best to provide good service to you all. Inevitably at times, service was a bit slower than we would have liked, but we hope to see you all again soon.

“Thank you from team Milford.”

Despite the busy start and not offering breakfast on its first day—a detail proactively communicated to customers—the franchise’s focus remained steadfast on ensuring everyone had a positive experience.

The commitment of the new McDonald’s restaurant to the local community extends beyond its menu. In partnership with the police and Port Authority, the franchise is actively working to address anti-social behaviour and improve traffic management around the new site.

These collaborations aim to create a safe and enjoyable environment for both patrons and the broader community, reinforcing McDonald’s dedication to making a positive impact, the company said.

The opening of the restaurant has also brought significant employment opportunities to Milford Haven, with 90 new jobs created.

This boost increases the total number of individuals employed by Lonetree Limited, the local franchisee, to around 1,700 across its 17 McDonald’s outlets in South West Wales.

As McDonald’s encourages residents to follow their social media for updates, the overarching message is one of gratitude and excitement for the future.

A local councillor said: “The successful launch day sets a promising tone for the McDonald’s restaurant in Milford Haven as it embarks on its journey to be more than just a place to eat but a valued community partner.”

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