THE South Wales Guardian has been subjected to a Carmarthenshire county council advertising blackout since September, following a comment piece criticising the authority.

Ironically, the revelation came on the day the council was being urged to show greater support for local newspapers.

In the wake of the Leveson report into media standards, county politicians called on the authority to abandon its own Carmarthenshire News publication – produced by council staff and costing taxpayers £148,000 – and help ensure “the vibrancy of the press”.

Meanwhile, council advertising in the Guardian has all but dried up since publication of an editorial lambasting the authority’s nownotorious Sainsbury’s press release regarding the Welsh Assembly’s call-in of plans for stores in Llandeilo and Cross Hands. Council figures show that during eight weeks between September 27 and November 21, the authority spent £9,551.69 in the county’s three newspapers with just £224.99 or 2.3 per cent spent in the Guardian. The remaining 97.7 per cent went to the Guardian’s two rivals.

In his report, Lord Justice Leveson noted with dismay the difficulties faced by local newspapers due to declining advertising revenue.

Plaid CymruAMRhodri Glyn Thomas said: “Local authorities have a duty not to undermine local newspapers and we’re calling on Carmarthenshire county council to join our campaign to secure the future of the local press in the county. The council should start by scrapping its own publication and direct advertisers to the independently-run publications in the county.

“Carmarthenshire has a much-respected local press and it is imperative it is able to act freely and report without fear or favour.”

Meanwhile, MP Jonathan Edwards said: “Lord Justice Leveson categorically states that local, high-quality and trusted newspapers are good for our communities, our identity and our democracy and play an important social role. It is imperative that local authorities play an active role in ensuring the vibrancy of the press.”

Carmarthenshire county council has not responded to requests for a response.