In defence of the BBC and why it should be protected in Wales

October 07, 2015 ,

The BBC’s role in Wales is far broader and more important than that of a broadcaster. It is a success story which is at risk if cuts are continued to be unfairly enforced on BBC Wales. The Charter Review needs to acknowledge the BBC’s success in Wales and the many areas where it leads the rest of the UK. Any proposals for the Charter that will effect Wales need careful assessment and consideration on how they impact these successes.

The BBC in Wales attracts a higher audience and level of appreciation than the UK average, the proportion of the population reached through its television and radio services is higher than elsewhere in the UK, and people in Wales watch or listen to nearly 45 minutes of BBC content more than the UK overall average.

Not only is the BBC more popular and more appreciated in Wales, but programmes produced in Wales account for some of the BBC’s most popular and most profitable exports across the world. Doctor Who, which is made in Wales, was the BBC’s most profitable programme last year and was licensed to 189 territories. Other popular Welsh BBC exports include, Sherlock, Torchwood, Casualty, Gavin & Stacey, The Indian Doctor, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, and Tribe.

BBC Wales plays a vital role in covering Welsh sport which might otherwise be swamped in the anglo-centric approach of the general coverage, and by the market power of the larger English Premiership. The importance of BBC Wales to the Welsh language cannot be underestimated; it is the only broadcaster committed to reflecting and reporting Wales in both languages across all platforms and devices. BBC Radio Cymru is listened to by 34% of fluent Welsh speakers. To put that into context if 34% of fluent English speakers in the United Kingdom listened to one radio station, that radio station would have listening figures of over 20 million people.

BBC Wales is vital to the Welsh economy with an annual turnover in excess of £150m and employing 1,200 members of staff across Wales. It also commissions work for independent Welsh production companies. The BBC’s Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay brings in thousands of visitors to Cardiff every day and is one of Trip Adviser’s highest rated tourist attractions in the UK. Welsh based shows such as Gavin & Stacey have also helped to bring in a new wave of tourism to areas like Barry Island which were previously in decline.

Despite this popularity and success, BBC Wales has suffered and continues to receive huge cutbacks.
Since 2007 it has seen real-terms cut of 32%, with S4C’s funding falling by as much as 36% since 2010. In 2016/2017 BBC Wales’ funding will be cut by £28 million which will mean a reduction in their spending of almost 19%, this is a far bigger cutback than facing BBC Scotland or the BBC in the North of England. The only region in the United Kingdom facing a worse cut is Northern Ireland.

The BBC in Wales is a huge success story in terms of its audience, its popularity, in bringing in revenue, the production of cutting edge programmes, expanding the Welsh language, and bringing in tourism and external investment. This is why the BBC in Wales should not just be protected, but should receive further investment. Wales is the best example in the UK where further investment in the BBC has resulted in not just success for the BBC but success for Wales as a whole.

The investment in the BBC Drama Studios at Cardiff’s Roath Lock resulted in Doctor Who becoming
the BBC’s biggest TV show in the world. Whereas investment in Welsh made programmes such as
Gavin & Stacey has resulted in a tourism boom and private investment into the local economy. The BBC is far more than a broadcaster in Wales, it’s an integral part of people’s lives and gives Wales a platform to compete on a global stage.

Wales has every right to expect the BBC Charter Review to be pro-Wales, where the BBC is a success in every sense. It is more popular and appreciated in Wales and plays a bigger part in people’s lives than anywhere else. Despite this success, the BBC in Wales has seen greater cuts than many other areas of the UK. This is grossly unfair and wrong, the BBC in Wales should not be punished for its success. Where there is success it should be harnessed and encouraged to grow, not weakened and cut at the expense of the very people who rely and appreciate it the most.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the BBC has played a pre- pre-eminent important role in nurturing Welsh culture and identity within a devolved UK. The BBC in general and BBC Wales in particular, generate a powerful positive gravitational pull on broadcasting standards in the UK, and for that reason should be maintained and strengthened by the Charter renewal process.

In the Words of the Jon Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi: “Don't it always seem to go, that you don't
know what you've got ‘til it's gone.”

If charter renewal weakens the BBC for the future, these are words which will ring true with future
generations.