Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Seeing more of Wales on the BBC

Column in the Llanelli Herald on June 30th 2017

People in Wales watch the BBC, and value it, more than people in any other part of the UK. And yet over the BBC Wales have cut the number of hours last 10 years by a massive 22%

In my last job running the think-tank, the Institute of Welsh Affairs, I made the case for reversing this cut by publishing detailed research about the poor state of the media in Wales, and since I’ve been in the Assembly I’ve been heavily involved in efforts to put pressure on the Government and the broadcasters to better serve Welsh audiences.

This week I had another chance to put the Director General of the BBC, Lord Tony Hall, on the spot when he came before the Assembly’s Culture Committee. You can watch the session on Senedd TV if you want to!

The pressure has had an impact. Despite facing significant Tory cuts the BBC have agreed to provide an extra £10.5 Million a year to BBC Wales. The Beeb are now creating 40 new jobs in Wales, including 25 additional journalist posts.  The main BBC network will also be airing three major TV dramas set in Wales in 2018 – the biggest ever commitment to homegrown drama. These are currently being shot in Newport, Carmarthenshire and north west Wales and include Keeping Faith starring Eve Myles and Requiem starring Lydia Wilson and Richard Harrington.
On top of that there’s be a new short bulletin at 8pm on weeknights on BBC One Wales, produced in Cardiff, covering global, UK and Welsh stories for the first time. And the late evening Wales Today bulletin will be extended to more Welsh news on BBC One.

News and sport coverage will also be strengthened with a focus on reaching younger audiences, and BBC Wales will expand its specialist correspondent team to provide greater expert coverage in important areas such as social affairs, home affairs and under-represented communities - as well as a BBC Wales Brexit team working between Cardiff, Westminster and Brussels and a new current affairs strand, BBC Wales Investigates, to carry out major investigations across television, radio and mobile.

As part of its new 11-year Charter the BBC is now committed to improving the way Wales is represented across all its coverage, and they’ll be monitored by the regulator, Ofcom, to make sure they deliver.

We’re still not getting the same kind of funding, and there’s lots of room for improvement on the way Wales is covered on the main BBC news coverage.  But things are getting better and it’s largely because of the pressure that has come from people and organisations in Wales.

Even though broadcasting is not something that is formally devolved to the National Assembly, we are now increasingly treated as the rightful voice for Wales and we have the results to show for it.

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