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BBC must do more for Wales

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Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 10.50.12THE BBC must do more to find ways to ensure audiences are kept informed about Welsh matters, according to a report by the BBC Trust.

The report, BBC Trust’s Service review: BBC nations’ news and radio services, examined news and current affairs services on TV and online made in and for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It concluded audience expectations of BBC news were extremely high and, while most rated its programming highly, occasionally it fell short of expectations.

The main conclusion was: “To improve its services, the Trust recommends the BBC should plan how it can provide more content online, examine how minority language services should evolve, and make meeting audience expectations on news output a specific part of the BBC’s overall annual performance assessment.” It noted that audiences across all the nations considered the BBC needed to get better at holding decisionmakers to account over its news programmes.

The review found that the BBC’s performance in Wales was strong, but it also highlighted that these services faced challenges. It said: “Particularly within the context of a deficit of other sources of Welsh news, the BBC will need to find ways to ensure audiences are kept informed about Welsh matters and that their expectations in areas such as Welsh political coverage and holding decision-makers to account are fully met.”

Like the other nations, younger Welsh audiences were still proving the hardest to reach, with older audiences remaining the main consumers of BBC TV and radio services.

BBC Radio Wales, the only national radio station in the English language, had made various changes to strengthen its portrayal of contemporary Wales, said the report, with greater prominence for journalism and sport and some very popular comedy. The station reached 16 per cent of adults each week in 2015, but its reach was under pressure and has fallen since 2011.

Radio Cymru reached 30 per cent of fluent Welsh speakers, equivalent to 4.6 per cent of all adults in Wales. “While general impressions of quality are strong and average listening hours are high, its reach has declined since 2011,” the Trust said.

In line with trends for BBC TV overall, the reach of BBC Wales’ news and current affairs output fell from 54 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent in 2015.

John Toner, national organiser Wales, said: “The NUJ welcomes the conclusion that the BBC must increase its efforts to inform audiences about Welsh matters and political coverage, and that the corporation has a vital role to play in holding decision-makers to account. In our Media Manifesto for Wales, the NUJ argued for a ‘strong publicly-owned, licence-feefunded BBC and greater oversight and scrutiny of public service broadcasting in Wales by the Welsh Government and Assembly’. We remain adamant that such scrutiny by the democratically-elected Assembly is essential to deliver the service that audiences need.

“The BBC is the only provider of comprehensive Welsh language radio coverage and we would not wish to see it packaged into a minority language ghetto. Welsh is spoken by more than 500,000 people in Wales, largely concentrated in remote areas where people rely on the BBC for much of their coverage of news and current affairs. Any attempt to dilute Welsh language broadcasting will be damaging to the future of the language itself. In fact, ant move to dilute news and current affairs coverage on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru would be a retrograde step. We have arranged a meeting with Bethan Jenkins, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, to address these points, among others.”

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Proposed work on dangerous Dorglwyd Junction set to be delayed

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ELIN JONES AM and Ben Lake MP have expressed their frustration following a recent statement from the Welsh Government noting that work on the A487 Dorglwyd junction from Comins Coch, would be delayed.

The junction has witnessed several crashes and close-calls over recent years, with local residents calling for the development of a roundabout or similar traffic-calming measures.

The Welsh Government announced in September 2016 that a feasibility study would be undertaken by the following Summer as to consider potential options to improve the junction.

However, a recent letter from Ken Skates AM, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to Elin Jones AM and Ben Lake MP noted: “We are aware of the issues at the junction and an improvement scheme has been within our upgrades programme for some time. Unfortunately, due to limited financial resources and competing priorities, it has progressed slowly.”

“We are currently reviewing the scope of a possible improvement and considering solutions which are affordable and minimise environmental impact. When we are in a position to present outline solutions, a workshop with local stakeholders will be held. This is likely to be in early 2019.”

Elin Jones AM said: “Whilst I do welcome such clarification from the Cabinet Secretary on the next steps for Dorglwyd junction, it is disappointing to read that no major works for the transformation will happen due to the expense of the project. It is positive however to see that a smaller scale improvement is now to be pursued, with consultation likely to be undertaken in early 2019.”

John Roberts, local Ceredigion County Councillor for Faenor ward, added: “I share both Elin Jones’ and Ben Lake’s disappointment at the response from Ken Skates AM. The original plan was to encapsulate a more global project including the Llanbadarn bypass therefore we need to be more realistic in our aspirations for Dorglwyd corner. Having discussed the project on site with both Elin Jones AM and Ben Lake MP last week we were of the opinion that a much smaller project which could solve the Dorglwyd issue was feasible and be much cheaper than the present scheme. We will wait for the consultation period in 2019.”

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Museum lights up the past

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CEREDIGION MUSEUM has had a full refurbishment of its lighting thanks to £116,558 of grants from Welsh Governments Museums Archives and Libraries Division and the Rural Community Development Fund.

Museum Curator, Carrie Canham, said: “Lighting has been a problem for us for some time; the system was so old that we couldn’t get new bulbs for some of the fittings. Also, we love to put on theatrical and musical performances at the museum but we couldn’t create an atmosphere with just strip lights and footlights. We’ve now got great stage and display lighting and it’s transformed the whole experience for our audiences.

“The new lighting system is all LED, so not only does it look much better it is also more suitable for the more delicate exhibits and it saves us money on our lighting bill.”

The lighting was designed and installed by DBNAudile, who specialise in museum lighting.

The team managed to install the system with minimal disruption to visitors.

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KeolisAmey awarded Wales and Borders Rail contract

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KEOLISAMEY is pleased that the Welsh Government has announced its intention to award the contract to operate the Wales and Borders rail service and the South Wales Metro to KeolisAmey.

Upon successful completion of a 10-day standstill period, the contract will run from June 4, 2018, to October 14, 2033, with rail services transferring on October 14, 2018.

This standstill period is normal procurement practice.

KeolisAmey is a joint venture partnership of international public transport operator Keolis, and infrastructure asset management specialist Amey.

KeolisAmey currently runs the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London, which has one of the best records in UK rail – consistently better than 99% reliability. Additionally, we operate and maintain Greater Manchester’s Metrolink – the largest tram network in the UK.

Alistair Gordon, Chief Executive of Keolis UK, said: “This will be a transformative new rail service for Wales and its borders which will see Keolis once more combine its worldwide expertise in passenger operations with Amey’s engineering excellence.

“We look forward to the successful completion of the procurement process – this exciting contract will deliver for all of Wales. The procurement process was rigorous, resulting in transformative solutions for the benefit of all in Wales, and indeed, future generations.

“While the proposed changes won’t happen overnight, the railway will be unrecognisable in five years thanks to the vision of the Welsh Government.”

Andy Milner, Amey’s Chief Executive, said: “Building on our successful partnership with Keolis, which already sees us deliver two high performing services – the Greater Manchester Metrolink and London’s DLR – we are honoured to be asked to operate the Wales and Borders service.

“This is a great opportunity for us to use our joint capabilities to deliver a first-rate service for Wales. We will be focused on working with Transport for Wales to transform the existing infrastructure and introduce new trains to significantly improve the passenger experience, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.”

KeolisAmey is unable to make any further comment until the procurement process has concluded and the contract has been awarded.

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