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BBC must do more for Wales

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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Dayne Stone

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