Report: English Language Television Broadcasting in Wales

22 July 2009

The range of news programmes for English-language speakers in Wales is under serious threat and key decisions about future programming must be made, says a report published today by the Welsh Affairs Committee.

ITV Wales in 2009 will produce just four hours of national news a week, including daily and weekend bulletins, and its financial problems mean the BBC will likely be the only provider of news programmes for English speakers in Wales by next year.

Given ITV’s bleak financial outlook, viewers will effectively have no choice in English-language news broadcasting in Wales from 2010. The report says the Government must urgently consider the lack of services and identify sources of funding to address the shortfall.

S4C’s proposal to Ofcom for an English-language news service is a possible way forward, as long as it does not compromise its core Welsh language role. But the Committee says any proposal involving public funding must be subject to full public scrutiny and the Government must require S4C to publish its proposals in full.

Whilst welcoming the Government’s Digital Britain Final Report, the Committee is disappointed that it provides no concrete proposals and funding options to meet the lack of diversity in news provision for the English-speaking audience in Wales. The Committee says the Government must urgently address this 'information gap' and identify sources of funding for a second high quality English-language news service.

The report also says the near-total lack of non-news programming produced in Wales for an English-speaking audience must be explicitly addressed, particularly in children’s programmes, and encourages the movement of production out of the over-subscribed south east of England to the regions and nations. It says production should be spread across the whole of Wales, not just concentrated in Cardiff.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:

"It is clear that the prospects for the provision of English-language news services in Wales are bleak unless action is taken quickly. Ofcom has warned that the situation over the next year is grave, and this is particularly worrying given that an election will be held – a time when it is especially vital that audiences have easy access to a wide range of high quality news and information programmes.

"It is not only news provision which is facing an uncertain future; where is the variety of music, drama and comedy programmes for the home audience? And it is a matter of some concern that English-speaking Welsh children are neglected by English-language broadcasters other than the BBC.

"Whilst we are encouraged that the Government’s Digital Britain report addresses the broader issues of lack of plurality in national and regional news services, immediate action is required to tackle the specific needs of the English-speaking audience in Wales."

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