Updating Memorandum submitted by the BBC
1. Digital Audio BroadcastingI
have enclosed separately a briefing note on the digital radio
position. Basically (See Annex), I believe that asking the BBC
and the Radio Authority to share a multiplex is trying to mix
oil and water. We are seriously worried here that if Radio Wales
and Radio Cymru have to wait years before being able to cover
Waleswhile network services are rolled out relatively quicklythe
services for Wales will be seriously disadvantaged when compared
with UK services. This will not serve properly the information
needs of the people of Wales in its new situation.
2. The opening of the AssemblyBBC
Wales is on target to complete the first phase of its installation
at Crickhowell House in time for the first sittings of the Assembly
in the week beginning 10 May. If the Assembly sits for the first
time on 12 May we also plan to start live coverage of the proceedings
via S4C2 on that day. (See below.) The completion of the second
and final phase of the installation will be done during the Assembly's
BBC Wales will give full coverage to the range
of events on 26 May at Llandaff Cathedral, the National Museum,
Crickhowell House, Cardiff Castle and the open air concert in
Cardiff Bay that evening. BBC Wales is, in fact organising the
programme for the evening event, which represents a sizeable investment
for usas does the rest of the day with its widely dispersed
The BBC's networks will also be taking some
part of the coverage.
3. Live coverageI am delighted
to say that the BBC and S4C have reached agreement on the provision
of a service of live coverage of the Assembly's proceedings.
This is likely to be announced shortly. The background is this:
When the BBC's Board of Governors decided on
the additional annual investment of £6m in Wales as a response
to the creation of the Assembly, within that figure was a sum
of money intended to cover the cost of providing live coverage.
We have now reached agreement with S4C on a
collaboration, by which this service will be provided by BBC Wales'
News and Current Affairs department and be broadcast on S4C's
second digital service S4C2. We shall be advertising for an Editor
for this service within the next week or so. He or she will report
to the Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Wales.
Editorial control will remain with the BBC,
but we have agreed to set up, with S4C, a Joint Editorial Board
which will agree on the strategic direction of the service and
monitor its performance.
This means that the Assemblyplenary sessions
and committee sessionswill be on air from the time it opens
to the time the sessions close in the late afternoon. There will
be a bilingual element in the coverage, eg explanatory captions
will be carried in both languages.
Initially, I anticipate that the coverage will
be akin to the coverage that which you see on BBC Parliament,
although as the functionality of the digital set top boxes develop
it will be possible to use the inter-active potential to establish
more innovative direct contact with the audience.
This development demonstrates three very positive
(i) that the public service broadcasters
in Wales can collaborate;
(ii) that the BBC Board of Governors decision
to make the funds available means that the service can be provided
without having to divert existing broadcasting funds in Wales;
(iii) that the service is being delivered
in the most cost effective way possible, by building on BBC Wales'
very considerable investment in staff and facilities for coverage
of the Assembly.
4. BBC ParliamentDiscussions
are still proceeding on the way in which the BBC Parliament channel
will incorporate material from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern
Irish bodies. Given that live coverage will be available through
the day on our service for S4C2 my main concern is to ensure that
there is a full summary of the main debates of the week at the
5. BBC2Digital channels provide
the main opportunity for continuous unmediated coverage of the
Assembly, but we are conscious of the fact that in the next few
years analogue television will still provide the largest audiences.
With this in mind we shall be providing live coverage of the Assembly
on BBC2 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, although we will retain
the capacity to mix coverage of the Assembly and of Westminster
in these slots. We will retain our coverage of Prime Minister's
Questions from Westminster on Wednesday afternoons.
6. Six O'Clock NewsThe situation
is unchanged, despite what you may have read in The Times.
The Six O'Clock News and Wales Today will retain their distinct
identities. There are three essential developments:
(i) There will now be an unprecedented degree
of liaison between the network news editors in London and the
newsroom in Cardiff. The Head of News and Current Affairs in Cardiff
now participates in the daily network planning meetings either
by telephone or video link;
(ii) The Six O'Clock News is already making
an even greater effort to ensure that its viewers everywhere are
informed about significant developments in all the countries of
(iii) Within the Six O'Clock News, Wales
Todayand its counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland
and the English regionswill be given the opportunity to
promote itself by a short headline sequence at the top and in
the middle of the programme.
7. BBC Wales budget 1999-00BBC
Wales' total turnover is now more than £89m, including the
income from network programmes. The total devolved budget for
radio and television services in Wales this year is £73.6m-£67.6
core budget plus the £6m allocated for the response to devolution.
Geraint Talfan Davies
Controller, BBC Wales
23 April 1999
2 See evidence page 154. Back