The future of the BBC in the devolved nations could be under threat
“The future of broadcasting in Wales is now in serious jeopardy.”
That was the warning for the Welsh deputy minister for culture, Ken Skates, yesterday as culture ministers from across the devolved nations met to discuss the future of the BBC as the process for charter renewal begins.
Calling for sufficient funding for broadcasting in Wales, Mr Skates commented following the meeting:
“Wales and the other devolved nations must and will have an equal voice in deliberations on the new BBC Royal Charter.
“It is vital the new agreement ensures there is sufficient funding for news and non-news programming in Welsh and English and for S4C.
“It must also fully reflect the interests of the people of Wales and the current and changing devolved settlement.
“People in Wales rely on the BBC for news coverage of public life, but beyond this both Welsh and English language programming in Wales have suffered significant budget cuts in recent years.”
Warning of the impact of any further funding cuts, Ken Skates has warned that it “would further limit BBC Wales and S4C’s ability to meet the needs of its viewers and listeners.”
“The future of broadcasting in Wales is now in serious jeopardy, and poses serious risks to both the Welsh language and our economy.
“It has been clear to me for some time that we in Wales share many of the same concerns as our neighbours in Scotland and Northern Ireland in relation to the review of the BBC’s Royal Charter.
“It is vital that we are properly consulted and I am very pleased that as governments we are working together to ensure our interests are protected and promoted in the BBC’s next Charter.”
His comments followed warnings by Rhodri Talfan Davies, the director for BBC Wales, that the BBC risks becoming “a sort of creative ‘Polyfilla’ – there to fill the gaps left by the market” if the charter review process is got wrong, with “public funding reserved solely for a narrow range of rather niche programmes”.
SNP culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, who hosted the meeting, argued that the BBC’s latest annual report showed that the Corporation was “failing to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland”. But she warned that such failures, “must fuel positive reform, not furnish excuses for cuts”.
Meanwhile Northern Ireland’s culture minister, Caral Ni Chuilin, called for the charter renewal to become “an opportunity” for the BBC “to deliver better for the North of Ireland.”
“In moving forward there needs to be greater emphasis placed on home-grown productions and the harnessing of local talent.
“The opportunities for local companies and individuals must be maximised and there must be increased commissioning of original programming showcasing our local communities and what they have to offer.
“There is a clear belief that the shared interests of the devolved administrations must be championed vigorously during the ongoing discussions surrounding the future shape and output of the BBC.”
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.