BBC BROADCASTER Huw Edwards kept guests at The National Library of Wales company last Friday (Oct 7) as he shared his adventures that have happened over the last year and explored the future of digital news.
The excitement was very clear in the Drwm at The National Library of Wales, as the audience knew that they were a few minutes away from meeting the Bridgend-born journalist – who had a lot of stories to tell about his years in broadcasting.
The discussion was held in Welsh, and also gave those who were not Welsh speaking a chance to listen to the liv e translator through earphones.
As soon as Huw walked into the room, it immediately felt like a friend had just come to visit you for a few hours. After greeting a few people when he arrived, Huw sat down in front of the audience and was accompanied by a member of staff from The National Library.
After a short and informal introduction by the staff member, Huw stood and warmly addressed the room as he gave a brief summary of his topics for the evening. He also added that he was pleased to be back in The National Library and was delighted to see new and familiar faces.
Giving the audience a bit of a flavour of his life in broadcasting, Huw mentioned that the BBC now has over 2,000 staff members in its London Headquarters, due to all mediums coming together under one roof. This, as Huw points out, makes it even more efficient for journalists to respond and distribute stories that much quicker.
Providing a slideshow of images from his last year, Huw talked about filming the BBC documentary ‘Aberfan: The Fight for Justice’, which will be broadcast on BBC One and S4C this month.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster on October 21, 1966, when a roaring avalanche of coal waste crashed into a school and nearby houses killing 144 people, BBC Wales will broadcast a series of programmes dedicated to the incident.
In his programme, Huw will trace the story of Aberfan’s decades-long battle for justice and the 76 days of tribunal evidence brought to life by actors through original transcripts.
When discussing this, Huw showed his complete interest in the topic and also added that he spent three weeks in July at Aberfan making the documentary.
Huw then went onto the next slide, which showed evidence of a very busy year for him as he interviewed Barack Obama regarding the EU referendum when he visited the UK earlier this year.
Comically telling the audience that a photo of the interview is enough evidence to say it happened, Huw emphasised the fact that it was an ‘unusual experience for a foreign journalist to interview the President of the United States of America’ and described Obama as a polite man.
The following slide showed Huw’s experience of reporting on the Paris attacks in 2015. The photos of Huw in front of the camera talking to world about the devastating attacks is something that will never be forgotten and is something that all of us will remember when tuning in to BBC One at that time.
The photos showed the importance of Huw’s role and the responsibility he had in delivering the news to the world, which he did so successfully.
Huw then showed another slide, which touched upon his experience in making the documentary ‘Patagonia with Huw Edwards’ on BBC One, televised in 2015. Huw described the unbelievable experience as one of the things he was most proud of in his 30 year career and that the countryside there was ‘beautiful’.
Onto the May elections, Huw then showed several images on the slide of his time broadcasting the topic and said that one of the aims was to try and create a Welsh perspective of the election.
On the nature of knowledge surrounding the subject, Huw talked about the system of the election and that the BBC offered a great service to people when it came to televising the event.
Huw also added that for months, public meetings were held about the Referendum and he also went into detail about the BBC guidelines for journalists and broadcasters.
Huw then went onto briefly talk about his experience in covering the news when Theresa May took up her residency at 10 Downing Street in July earlier this year.
Pointing to the photo on the slideshow of him standing in front of the camera at Downing Street that very day, Huw said that within the space of 14 hours, there was a new Prime Minister as well as a new government.
He further explained that it was a very long day for a journalist and that it was an exciting experience, a day that anyone will always remember.
The audience were then treated to a five minute clip of a 1970s Welsh news programme, which Huw showed to demonstrate what inspired him to branch into journalism, describing the production quality as ‘clean and presentable’.
This then linked to one of the topics that Huw wanted to address to the audience that evening, which was the current position of Wales within the media.
Emphasising that the BBC have a role in producing Welsh news even more so than S4C in recent times, Huw stated that we are in need of a national service when it comes to Wales.
Discussing the timetable alteration for broadcasting, Huw said that this affected the audience greatly- adding that it is important to show your audience that you respect them and that it is important to be loyal to them.
Huw then added that S4C launched a 9pm news slot in recent times and, as a result, the audience numbers have increased greatly.
This then allowed Huw to introduce the topic of the future of digital news. Before going any further, he greatly stressed that despite the fact that the digital era is slowly dominating the ways that people receive news (online and mobile apps), it does not mean that the days of television are over. They are far from over, in fact.
Following this, a slide of statistics was shown regarding audience viewing figures for a variety of channels.
A very interesting slide showed that BBC News at 10pm had 25,000 viewers, ITV News at 10pm had 90,000 viewers, ITV News at 6pm had two million viewers, ITV Wales Today at 6.30pm had 270,000 viewers and S4C News at 9pm had 25,000 viewers.
Seeing the figures written in black and white on a big slideshow really hits home as to how many people tune in to watch the news, as well as showing that television is definitely one of the main mediums people turn to in order to receive news.
Huw mentioned that it is also important to know how competitive news in print are in comparison to online news, such as the Western Mail selling 19,910 in 2015 compared to two million people reading the news on Wales Online.
With 85% of papers being produced in England, Huw stated that the era of receiving news online is growing every day and that 58% of the population depend on the BBC for news.
Huw added that he cannot emphasise enough the continuous growth of the media online, calling it remarkable and to put it into perspective, a total of 15 million people kept up to date with the referendum online.
From this, Huw went onto the next slide that showed more audience statistics but, this time, it showed the various social media sites that people tend to use to share and receive news.
Focussing on Facebook, Huw told the audience that we will no doubt see an even greater presence of the social media platform in years to come, stating that the amount of people using it has increased from 7% to 12% in recent years.
The audience then learned that the BBC Facebook platform has grown from 17% in 2014 to 29% in popularity. During the referendum, the BBC had 45 million people online following the event – a record amount the BBC have had in the space of many years.
Huw then went on to say that, regarding the topics that were popular in 2016, the BBC Breakfast EU Referendum result special programme and the BBC 6pm News slot in January featuring the news of David Bowie’s death were the most watched.
Some of the most popular stories that people read about online throughout 2016 were Alan Rickman’s death and the Paris attacks. Huw also added that the two main topics people mentioned online this year was the EU immigration at 38% and the EU referendum at 40%. Foreign Affairs was the topic least talked about, having a result of 10%.
Huw concluded his presentation by reassuring the audience on Friday evening that the BBC is are still very much present on television and that is the important thing.
The BBC competes with all other broadcasting channels every day of the week and it is the BBC’s duty to provide the Welsh audience with a good service of national broadcasting.
After the discussion, the audience had an opportunity to take part in a Q and A session.
The questions focussed on the role of a journalist during the Referendum, further information on what inspired Huw to have a career within journalism and the advantages to digital media.
Regarding the topic of digital media, Huw said that both the public and journalists have the advantage to receive news rapidly. Accepting that there needs to be more sources and platforms for young people, Huw added that micro news is a healthy thing and that the decision of what is the most reliable source to receive information from is up to the readers.
Addressing the lack and scarcity of sources for the Welsh population, Huw went on to say that in order to expand, people need to take advantage of the online sources that are available.
Huw concluded the evening by telling the audience that what gives him hope is the fact that people have knowledge regarding the ways news can be accessed, be it through online sources or television.
After the discussion, Huw was able to speak to The Herald on how successful he felt the evening was as a whole: “By being here, I just wanted to give to people a sense of what I’ve been doing over the last year because it’s been quite varied. It’s also not often that I get a chance to do an evening in Welsh. I don’t often get that opportunity, so that was enjoyable for me.
“I also wanted to explain a little about where Welsh news is heading, because it’s at quite a challenging place at the moment. I also wanted to say something about audiences, not just in Wales, but across the UK because it’s very competitive now and what we’re seeing with Facebook and other sources of news is that it’s getting incredibly competitive continuously.”
Huw continued by saying: “Newspapers these days have to diversify and produce content online, otherwise there is no future. Tonight was to give people a flavour of how that works.
“I also thought that the questions that were asked were interesting because people are engaged and when we have had such a busy year, with the referendum and elections, for example, people are interested in how the media works. The media plays such an important part in these things.
Huw added: “The talk was very enjoyable, but it wasn’t for me to enjoy but for the people to enjoy. It was a good chance to meet and speak to people in the audience who watch BBC news regularly because they can give us some feedback, and feedback is always good, whatever the view.”
Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action
DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.
The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.
A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.
“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.
“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.
“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”
The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister
THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.
The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.
Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.
Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.
He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.
Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.
“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.
“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.
“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”
WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure
A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.
WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED
The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.
THE APPEAL ISSUE
The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).
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