6. Memorandum submitted by the BBC
Following a meeting of the Board of Governors,
we attach the BBC's evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.
The submission has been prepared by the BBC
in full consultation with BBC Wales. The submission has the support
of the Broadcasting Council for Wales whose role, under the BBC's
Charter, is to represent the interests of Welsh viewers and listeners
to the Board.
The BBC looks forward to meeting the Select
Committee and answering questions on the BBC's position as Wales's
only truly national public service broadcaster.
|Sir Christopher Bland|
Chairman of the BBC
|Roger Jones OBE|
BBC National Governor for Wales and Chairman of the
Broadcasting Council for Wales
|21 September 1998|
Wales stands on the verge of significant change in every
aspect of its national lifea change that is symbolised
in the creation of a National Assembly. The BBC welcomes the opportunity
to bring these historic developments to audiences in Wales and
across the UK. It is perfectly placed to provide a comprehensive,
authoritative and imaginative response, across its many complementary
outlets, both network and local, in English and Welsh, analogue
In its network output, the BBC has the strength in depth,
in news and current affairs, in drama and factual programming,
to bring to audiences throughout the UK the full richness and
complexity of contemporary Wales: drawing on the varied resources
of BBC Wales to provide a unique and vital link between Wales
and the wider world.
In its national output, the BBC can project the image of
Wales to the people of Wales, through news, sport, entertainment,
music and arts, documentary and education, reflecting the diverse
traditions of the principality, in both languages, across television,
radio, text and online.
The BBC is better equipped than any other broadcaster to
do full justice to a major new democratic institution, the National
Assembly, by educating audiences in Wales and across the UK in
what it does and how it works; by broadcasting and analysing its
debates; and by setting it in the context of other political institutions,
especially at Westminster and in Europe.
1. BBC WALES SERVICES
BBC Wales is the national broadcaster for Wales, being the
only broadcaster addressing the nation in both its languages and
across radio and television. BBC Wales also represents the largest
critical mass of programme production skills in Wales. The BBC's
service to Wales is diverse and of high quality. It comprises:
BBC Radio Walesa national radio service for Wales in
the English language, broadcasting on Medium Wave for 18 hours
a day throughout the week. Radio Wales will also begin broadcasting
on FM in some parts of Wales during November.
BBC Radio Cymrua national radio service for Wales in
the Welsh language, broadcasting on FM for 18 hours a day throughout
The two radio services are the only national radio services
BBC Wales Televisionbroadcasting 12 hours a week of
English language television programmes within the schedules of
BBC One and BBC Two.
BBC Wales for S4Csupplying 10 hours a week of Welsh
language programmes for broadcast on S4C. This supply is funded
entirely from the licence fee.
BBC Wales Productionsupplying a wide range of programmes
to the BBC's UK radio and television networks.
BBC National Orchestra of WalesWales' only professional
symphony orchestra sustained by the BBC in partnership with the
Arts Council of Wales and with additional support from S4C.
The BBC Wales Television service is wide ranging, covering
news, current affairs, Parliamentary coverage, sport, documentaries,
arts, music, drama and entertainment. Wales Today is currently
the most popular television news programme for Wales. In recent
years, entertainment programmes like Satellite City and
Wales in the West End have won large audiences for the
English-language television service.
BBC Wales' service for S4C also comprises the whole of S4C's
news output and Parliamentary coverage as well as current affairs,
sport, drama, documentaries, music and schools programmes. The
soap opera, Pobol y Cwm, produced by BBC Wales, has been
S4C's most popular programme from the very inception of the channel.
BBC Wales network output is concentrated on music, documentaries,
education and drama for both the radio and television networks.
In network television, the output includes popular drama for BBC
One as well as prestigious music output, including Cardiff
Singer of the World.
2. BROADCASTING AND
The National Assembly will be one of the first democratic
institutions to have been created in the television age. It is
being created as a new era of digital technology is launched.
This presents a unique opportunity to take account of the importance
of broadcasting to democracy in the very design of the institution.
The BBC is committed to ensuring the best possible service
for the public from the Assembly. To this end, in February, the
three principal broadcasters in Walesthe BBC, HTV and S4Csubmitted
a joint paper entitled National Assembly for Wales: Broadcasting
the Proceedings to the Public Access and Communications Group
of the National Assembly Advisory Group. BBC Wales has sought
to give every assistance to the Welsh Office in planning the technical
facilities necessary for the provision of sound and vision feeds
that will not only serve the broadcasters but also be integral
to the Assembly's own internal communications. Negotiations between
the broadcasters and the Welsh Office about the funding of these
facilities are in progress.
The National Assembly will develop its own means of direct
contact with the electorate, often using the new technologies.
But it is broadcasting that will provide the widest and most accessible
bridge between the Assembly and the public. Radio and television
are now the primary source of information on public affairs for
the vast majority of the population.
The public recognises the seriousness with which the BBC
takes this obligation. For instance, on the night of the devolution
referendum 69 per cent of the television audience in Wales were
watching BBC One Wales while another 9 per cent were watching
the BBC's Welsh-language results programme on S4Cthat is,
78 per cent watching BBC Wales-produced output. Additional thousands
listened to the results services on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio
In the light of the referendum and the creation of the National
Assembly we restate that which we said to the National Assembly
we are committed to a substantial editorial response;
we are conscious of the challenge to our journalism;
we are conscious that it will require a heavy
new investment within our own operations.
3. COVERING THE
Following the devolution referendums the BBC established
a working party not only to shape its response within Wales, Scotland
and Northern Ireland but also to review the way in which network
news and current affairs programmes should respond. The BBC believes
it is axiomatic that all network political or current affairs
strands must be sensitive and alert to the agendas emerging from
the new institutions Detailed responses will be finalised during
Newsgathering operations in Wales will be strengthened by
appointing additional political staff and specialist correspondents.
This staff will service all news and current affairs outlets,
network and national, across radio and television and in both
There will be scope for live network coverage of the proceedings
on existing channels and, more extensively, on the new digital
channels. In particular, the newly acquired Parliamentary Channel
will reflect not only the work of the Commons and the Lords but
also that of the National Assembly of Wales, the Scottish Parliament
and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
For audiences in Wales BBC Wales will ensure a full service
of reportage, analysis and debate related to the National Assembly's
On BBC One Wales and BBC Two Wales we will provide comprehensive
coverage using our existing news and current affairs outlets as
well as new programmes developed specifically to recognise the
new situation. Key debates and occasions will be made available
live; and on the new digital service for Wales, BBC Choice Wales.
We believe that a deeper coverage of public policy issues
in Wales is required as well as more regular debate and that the
present Welsh Lobby programme should be redesigned and
given a more prominent place in the schedule.
We are very conscious of the need to ensure that, wherever
appropriate, coverage of the National Assembly can be properly
integrated with coverage of Westminster and of the European Parliament,
so that a full context can be given to viewers and listeners.
The BBC is a uniquely strong position to provide national and
international perspectives on issues and debates which will arise.
To this end BBC Wales will continue to maintain a presence
at Westminster and a full time correspondent in Brussels.
The National Assembly will operate bilingually. BBC Wales
will build on its experience of broadcasting in two languages
on radio and television in order to develop appropriate practices
and standards in its coverage.
By March 1999 we will launch a full online news service for
Wales. This will be provided bilingually, in effect giving Wales
for the first time ever a daily Welsh language "newspaper".
This will allow people in Wales, the UK and the whole world, to
access news of Wales and the National Assembly with all the depth
and authority that the BBC's news service can provide.
As news provider to S4C the BBC will be crucial to the awareness
of the National Assembly in the Welshlanguage community.
We will continue to supply S4C's news service and main political
output, including analysis and debate. BBC Wales will build on
the expertise it has developed in its Welsh-language Newyddion
team which has, since the early eighties, provided local,
Welsh, British and international news, all within its daily programme.
This service to S4C will be available on both its analogue and
S4C1 digital services.
We are also co-operating with S4C to ensure that in partnership
the publicly-funded broadcasters of Wales exploit the potential
of digital spectrum to cover the National Assembly live, meeting
the needs of communities across Wales.
Plans for Covering the Elections
The BBC is committed to reporting the election with all the
energy, commitment and impartiality that the BBC has brought to
election coverage over the years. We are approaching this with
two needs in mind:
the need for educational and information programmes,
directed variously at schools, young people and adults, to outline
the powers of the National Assembly, its place within the British
constitution, policy issues and the background to the new voting
the need for campaign coverage that is comprehensive,
professional, balanced and mature.
Campaign coverage of the first National Assembly elections
will, in large part, follow the pattern of our coverage of general
an election planning unit will be set up in BBC
Wales to address the editorial and operational issues. This will
manage coverage, resources and operational needs, following the
model successfully implemented during general elections.
another unit will be established by the Regional
Broadcasting Directorate to act as a liaison point between Wales,
Scotland and the networks.
extensive planning and briefing exercises will
be undertaken, not only for staff in Wales, but also for the staff
of network programmes.
special emphasis will be placed on explaining
policy issues which make the National Assembly election different
from other elections.
Cost of Assembly Coverage
The costs of broadcasting from the National Assembly fall
into two categories. The first relates to the added investment
in programmes implicit in the plans outlined above. This is likely
to be substantial, running to several million pounds, to be borne
by the BBC, as part of its commitment to responding in full to
devolution throughout the UK. The second area relates to the cost
of the technical facilities required to cover the chamber and
committee rooms in sound and vision. These facilities will also
serve as an essential part of the infrastructure for the National
Assembly's internal information systemselectronic Hansard,
translating, archiving, Intranet, feeds to public rooms, video-conferencing,
regional centres and so forth. They will also service the National
Assembly's own direct information service for the public, probably
including the Assembly's Internet operation.
The provision of sound and vision feeds will be the sine
qua non of the National Assembly's communication policy. Broadcasters
will, of course, contribute to the cost of providing these facilities
as well as making a considerable investment in their own dedicated
facilities, but would not expect to be asked to carry costs which
are related to the Assembly's own communication policies. BBC
Wales, with the other broadcasters, is currently in negotiation
with the Welsh Office about the appropriate division of costs
in relation to the necessary technical infrastructure within the
National Assembly building.
4. A WIDER RESPONSE
The BBC believes that its response to the changes in Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland should be wider than National Assembly
coverage alone. Our total response encompasses four main elements:
Coverage of the Assembly.
Strengthening our services for Wales.
Increasing Wales' contribution to the BBC's UK
Increased marketing of our services in Wales.
We are currently examining all our services for Wales to
see where they need to be strengthened to reflect social, cultural
and political change in an increasingly competitive broadcast
Senior managers in BBC Wales are currently also engaged in
a discussion with the commissioning controllers of the radio and
television networks with the aim of arriving at an agreed network
development strategy designed, over three years, to lead to a
step change in the size of Wales' contribution. This is part and
parcel of the BBC's overall commitment to reflect the whole of
the UK in its services.
BBC Wales aims to concentrate its network contributions in
the fields of drama, music and arts, factual programming and education.
We will ensure that these positive developments are brought
to the attention of the public in Wales through consistent and
5. TELEVISION TRANSMISSION
The topography of Wales makes it the most complex area of
the UK in terms of transmission requirements. This has necessitated
a massive investment to the extent that Wales has 5 per cent of
the UK's population but 20 per cent of its transmitters. Despite
this, the percentage of the population covered is inevitably marginally
lower than in any other part of the UK for every national radio
and television service.
Recently, much attention has been given to the question of
signal overlap in Wales from transmitters based in Englandnot
all of it accurate. The facts are these:
Signals from transmitters in England cover an
area of Wales that includes nearly 40 per cent of the Welsh population.
The comparable overlap in Scotland covers only 2.8 per cent of
the Scottish population.
However, within that area some viewers tune their
sets only to Welsh transmitters, some tune their sets to transmitters
in both Wales and England and some only to transmitters in England.
A recent estimate is that between 10 per cent
and 15 per cent of viewers choose not to access signals from Wales.
These are more heavily concentrated in North East Wales.
This situation has been researched recently, in a joint exercise
by BBC Wales, HTV Wales and S4C. The findings have been evaluated
and discussions are proceeding with a view to mounting a joint
Significant pockets of population in North East Wales cannot
receive signals from Wales-based transmitters, although the situation
has been significantly improved in the last month by the addition
of BBC Two Wales transmissions from the Wrexham-Rhos transmitter,
covering 80,000 people.
We believe that digital television will bring major transmission
benefits. The BBC's policy is to make all its free to air services
available on all digital platforms.
Digital Terrestrial Television, which will be launched in
November 1998, will cover some 70 per cent of the Welsh population
by March 2000. By co-siting all digital terrestrial transmitters
with existing analogue ones, the BBC expects that many of the
served population will be capable of receiving DTT on existing
Moreover, all the BBC's services, including its services
for Wales, will be available on digital satellite from September
1998. Digital satellite signals are receivable by virtually all
households in Wales (subject to having the appropriate receiving
equipment), including many beyond the reach of existing terrestrial
The BBC's objective on the digital platforms is to replicate
its existing channels and to add the services of BBC News 24 and
BBC Choiceincluding its version for Walesplus future
services, such as BBC Learning. BBC Choice Wales will be available
on DSat throughout the UK. The amount of satellite spectrum space
currently purchased means that, at launch, BBC Two will be available
only in a UK-wide form on DTT and DSat. Most of the programming
for Wales scheduled on BBC Two will be available on BBC Choice.
| Analogue||Digital Terrestrial (DTT)
||Digital Satellite (DSat)|
| BBC One Wales||BBC One Wales
||BBC One Wales|
(available in Wales only)
|BBC Two Wales||
|BBC Two UK||BBC Two UK
|BBC Choice Wales||BBC Choice Wales|
(available across UK)
|BBC Choice Scotland
|BBC Choice N. Ireland
|BBC Choice UK
|BBC News 24||BBC News 24
6. THE IMPLICATIONS
The BBC is using its editorial, technical and engineering
expertise to help drive the digital revolution. This will not
only deliver higher technical qualities, through widescreen pictures
and CD quality sound, but also greatly extend the choice available
to the viewer through the introduction of new services. Through
this, and its continuing commitment to universal services, the
BBC will also assist in guaranteeing access for all citizens to
the benefits of the digital age.
It is committed to a presence on all three digital platformsterrestrial,
satellite and cableso that licence payers can access free-to-air
public services easily and on whichever delivery system they choose.
A pre-view service has been available on DSat from late June;
new services were launched, again on DSat, in September. They
will be available in DTT form from November. It is expected that
cable operators will begin migrating their customers from analogue
to DCable from next year.
In Wales, we start from the proposition that Welsh viewers
want full access to all UK network services and want high quality
services for their own national community in addition to, rather
than instead of, network services. The BBC aims to provide both.
But it will do so within a much more complex marketplace.
The gain for Wales from the BBC's investment in digital will
BBC Choice Wales
First and foremost is the creation of BBC Choice Wales, launched
on DSat in September 1998. This has provided the most significant
step forward for English television broadcasting in Wales since
the advent of a separate BBC television service for Wales in 1964.
Hitherto, our television service for Wales has taken the
form of individual programmes, scheduled within BBC One and BBC
Two. BBC Choice Wales provides the first daily, unbroken block
of programmes in English for Wales, creating an unprecedented
development opportunity. This will allow us to extend our news
service, to extend coverage of major events, to follow up programmes,
debates and themes first developed on BBC One and BBC Two, to
create themed evenings and to provide another chance for viewers
to see BBC Wales output.
It has begun as a daily two hour block and, as the digital
audience increases, more resources will be made available to open
up other blocks of time within BBC Choice.
In addition this service will be made available throughout
the UK, so that Welsh people everywhere can have access to news
and general programming for Wales. By the same token the corresponding
services from Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be available
in Wales and across the UK. To guard against deprivation of the
UK service, the sustaining BBC Choice UK service will also be
available on DSat.
BBC Wales Online
The BBC has already established one of the most successful
online news sites on the worldwide web. BBC Wales will launch
a bilingual online news service for Wales by March 1999. This
will make the fullest use of its considerable newsgathering resources.
BBC Wales has already appointed an Online Development Manager
as a first step to building the skillbase within BBC Wales for
online, non-linear production.
BBC News 24
BBC Wales is already making a substantial contribution to
the new BBC News 24 service. BBC Wales has led the way, among
BBC regions, in terms of the volume of material supplied to the
BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and BBC Northern Ireland are currently
discussing ways in which they can best contribute to meeting the
educational needs of their own countries in collaboration with
BBC Education and its proposed BBC Learning Channel. BBC Wales
and S4C have also been working together on the Digital College
for Wales concept with the aim of creating a Welsh hub for the
University for Industry and ensuring that the long learning vision
is properly tailored to Wales' educational needs.
While each individual broadcaster is planning its programme
response to the potential of the new technology, the extent of
the change being wrought by these technological developments will
also oblige broadcasters and politicians to consider the public
The creation of the National Assembly will itself generate
a more open and persistent debate about broadcasting issues in
Wales. This investigation by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs
is an early sign of that. The situation in Wales requires careful
thought since this is the only area of the UK in which two publicly
funded broadcasters operate.
The BBC has sought to identify the public policy considerations
that should underlie the pattern of broadcasting in Wales and,
particularly, the relationship between the BBC and S4C.
In short, we believe these should include the following:
Public money should be used to provide services
which are complementary not competitive, especially as the market
is small and funding is limited, ensuring clear remits for public
services and accountability for the use of public funds.
Distinctive, high-quality public services should
be maintained for Wales, ensuring that there is a fair balance
of provision between both languages.
A broad mix of programmes should be maintained
across all services, along with high quality thresholds.
A structure should be maintained for Welsh broadcasting
which would allow the most effective use of the Welsh talent pool
and ensure that there is a strong production base in Wales.
The BBC's commitment to the Welsh language lies deep in its
history, tradition and its current staff. BBC Wales provides one
third of S4C's Welsh-language output and its programmes are the
cornerstone of the schedule. With this in mind the BBC remains
committed to collaborating closely with S4C to ensure that the
above principles can be implemented effectively by our respective
organisations, collaborating wherever possible and competing only
where it is demonstrably in the public interest to do so. This
requires a clarity of remit between the two organisations based
on BBC Wales' broad, bi-media proposition and S4C's linguistic
S4C has indicated that it wishes to safeguard sufficient
spectrum space on its own multiplex for a second digital channel
and that it wishes to talk to all interested parties about the
use of that space. The BBC looks forward to discussing the potential
of such space within the principles outlined above.
Radio is also going digital. There are seven UK digital radio
multiplexes available throughout the UK, each capable of offering
a number of radio and data services. Digital radio will also be
receivable on broadcast-enabled PCs. The BBC has been allocated
space on the five local commercial multiplexes licensed by the
Radio Authority, to carry BBC national regional services. The
BBC will wish to ensure that the needs of public service radio
in Wales are not compromised by the inclusion of BBC Radio Cymru
and BBC Radio Wales on a commercial multiplex.
7. BROADCASTING, ACCOUNTABILITY
The broadcasting industry stands at a moment of transition,
on the brink of changes that will transform the media landscape.
Digital technology is blurring the boundaries between broadcasting,
telecommunications, IT and publishing. Geographical boundaries
are also shifting. BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and BBC Northern Ireland
are about to begin UK-wide satellite transmission of their services
for Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish audiences. It is no longer
possible to think of a solely Welsh audio-visual space.
These developments make it significantly more complex to
devolve broadcasting regulation by territory; and they weighed
heavily with Government in its decision to treat broadcasting
as a retained power in Wales and Scotland.
The BBC also notes that the transfer of responsibility for
one broadcaster only, S4C, would create an asymmetric situation,
with unpredictable consequences.
It is recognised, however, that the National Assembly will
take a keen and proper interest in broadcasting policy as in other
cultural matters, an interest the BBC would wish to facilitate.
There is, therefore, a need for all broadcasters to consider how
they will relate to this new democratic institution as well as
to the public at large.
The Governance of the BBC
The 1996 Royal Charter established for the first time a clear
accountability framework for the BBC. Central to this framework
are the Board of Governors and the Broadcasting Councils in Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Board of Governors is responsible for:
monitoring performance against objectives;
ensuring that legal and contractual obligations
ensuring that complaints are effectively handled;
submitting an annual report to Parliament and
The role of the Councils is to:
understand the needs and interests of audiences
in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
advise the Governors on the appropriateness of
BBC objectives to local audiences in those countries;
advise the Governors in formulating local objectives;
be consulted over the split of the local programme-making
be consulted on significant changes to the local
This clarification of responsibilities has already led to
a strengthened partnership between the Governors and the Broadcasting
Council for Wales, and new procedures have helped to cement it:
among others a new business cycle, an integrated performance review
process and arrangements for assessing the reactions and opinions
of audiences. Within the Charter framework, development of these
processes will continue. The National Governor, Wales and the
Broadcasting Council for Wales are actively considering how to
maximise their accountability to the BBC's audience in Wales,
through more effective consultation and listening procedures.
The BBC would welcome a constructive debate with the National
Assembly over the future of the media in Wales; and the role of
the BBC. To this end, it suggests:
the establishment of a committee dealing with
culture and broadcasting;
an annual opportunity for the National Governor
and the Controller of BBC Wales and, where appropriate, the Chairman
and the Director-General, to discuss BBC strategy and policy with
such a committee.
Although the National Assembly will wish to be involved in
the appointment of the BBC's National Governor for Wales, this
consultation needs to be conducted in such a way that it maintains
a healthy arm's length relationship between broadcasters and politicians.
For the BBC, as a publicly funded UK-wide institution committed
to reflecting regional and cultural diversity of these islands,
devolution has a particular resonance and potential high impact.
The BBC would wish to maintain its role as the cornerstone of
broadcasting throughout the United Kingdom, within a single coherent
organisation. However, it intends that its response to devolution
will strengthen the BBC in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
without weakening the BBC as a strong creative force serving the
whole of the United Kingdom.