Supplementary Memorandum submitted by
I enclose a paper giving as much detail as is
available to date on our plans for coverage of the National Assembly.
You will appreciate that the scale of the BBC's commitment to
this task is necessarily greater than any other broadcaster because
of the complexity of our operation. It, therefore, requires much
more complex planning and, as I indicate in the paper, has required
us to reassess our whole news and current affairs operation. Hence
the fact that this letter is later than you requested, for which
A planning conference for 40 staff from the
department took place on Monday of this week and was addressed
by Martin Evans, Head of the Devolution Unit at the Welsh Office.
This was a crucial stage in testing our thinking and refining
our plans. We expect the process to be complete by the middle
Geraint Talfan Davies
20 January 1999
The Devolution Response
In December 1998 the BBC's Board of Governors
confirmed an allocation of £6 million to BBC Wales to fund
a full journalistic response to the creation of the National Assembly
of Wales. This represents an increase of more than one third in
the total investment in news and current affairs in BBC Wales.
The scale of the increase is such that it is
bound to have an effect on the total organisation and technical
resourcing of news and current affairs in BBC Wales. In order
to achieve the most effective use of the allocated funds we have
instituted a full review of the department's organisation, and
the commissioning plans for 1999-00. This review will be completed
early in February, when the final commissions for all devolution
related output will be confirmed.
In the meantime the following outline gives
as up to date a picture as possible. The allocated funding will
1. The BBC's share of the 50 per cent contribution
by the three main broadcasters in WalesBBC, HTV and S4Cto
the cost of the host broadcaster operation at the National Assembly
building. The contract for the host broadcaster operation has
been allocated at an annual cost of £580,000.
2. The installation of a BBC Wales newsroom
in Crickhowell House, with associated sound and television facilities
to serve all BBC outlets. The contract for this installation is
currently being tendered.
3. The recruitment of political correspondents
and associated support staff for all BBC services. The precise
numbers of staff will be decided once the review of the department's
organisation is completed. It is expected to generate about 40
4. While digital services offer untrammelled
spectrum space for live coverage, it is the analogue television
services that currently deliver the mass audience. This situation
is likely to obtain for some years. BBC Wales will, therefore,
reformat the current Westminster Live programme on BBC2
on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during Assembly sessions. The
new programmes will be edited and presented from Cardiff, contain
live output from the Assembly and, where appropriate, inserts
from Westminster. On Wednesday afternoons we will retain coverage
of the Prime Minister's Questions from Westminster, although we
will need to react to any future changes in the time tabling of
key proceedings at Westminster and in the Assembly.
5. Radio Wales and Radio Cymru will cover
a limited number of key events live. Both stations will respond
to any emerging landmark events in the Assembly's calendar.
6. Discussions are continuing with network
planners on the inclusion of selected portions of National Assembly
proceedings in the BBC's Parliamentary Channel.
7. Funds have been set aside for unmediated
live coverage of the Assembly's proceedings (although it will
include editorial input from the BBC Wales' specialists by way
of introduction, explanation and summary). This is the only known
funding to be made available by any broadcaster for this purpose.
We have yet to decide where this output will be placed. The BBC
has the option to place the coverage on its new BBC Choice Wales
digital channel or to come to an arrangement with S4C to broadcast
this BBC Wales coverage on S4C's vacant digital spectrum space.
We are also exploring the possibility of an additional placement
on existing cable services. The production of such a service as
an operation integrated with the remainder of the BBC Wales' Assembly
operations would seem to be the most cost effective way of providing
Programmes of record
8. BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru will
carry highlights of the day's proceedings each morning and evening
within their respective news programmes. At present, we expect
these highlights to be scheduled between 0700 and 0800 in the
morning and between 1800 and 1830 in the evening.
9. BBC Wales television will carry a weekly
programme concentrating on coverage of proceedings and political
developments at Welsh, UK and European levels. This will be achieved
through a redesign, strengthening and re-scheduling of Welsh
Lobby. The new programme will be scheduled in a mid-week slot
where we would anticipate a larger audience than in its current
10. A weekly half hour digest of proceedings
will also be provided on BBC Choice Wales, with presentation tailored
for a younger audience.
11. BBC Wales will produce a similar programme
for S4C by a parallel redesign of the Maniffesto programme.
The scheduling of the programme is a matter for S4C and is currently
12. Excerpts from Assembly proceedings will
also be included in Despatch Box on BBC2 and Yesterday
in Parliament on Radio 4 as merited.
Expanded news services
13. BBC Wales will provide an extended late
evening news summary at 2300 on BBC2, concurrent with a new news
bulletin within Newsnight. BBC Wales has also retained
the option to extend this programme until 2320 and is likely to
do so whenever the Assembly is sitting.
14. The late evening news programme on BBC
Choice Wales, available on satellite throughout the UK, will also
include Assembly coverage.
15. BBC Wales' Ceefax service will include
enhanced political coverage.
16. This spring BBC Wales plans to launch
online news sites for Wales in both languages. This will be preceded
by the launch of a BBC Wales Assembly web site to ensure online
access to news and background information in the weeks before
and during the election campaign period.
17. Funds are being earmarked for coverage
of regional committees which, at present are included in the host
Analysis and debate
18. A new strand of programmes will be launched
on BBC Wales dedicated to the analysis of a wide range of policy
issues in Wales. The precise duration of this strand is yet to
19. A new debate strand will be launched
on BBC Wales which will bring politicians and other experts together
with audiences throughout Wales.
20. The BBC-produced Welsh language debate
strandPawb a'i Farnwill be retained on S4C.
Geraint Talfan Davies
Controller, BBC Wales
20 January 1999