8. Joint Memorandum submitted by the
Welsh Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
1.1 This memorandum has been submitted jointly
by the Welsh Office and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport,
and is based on the key issues outlined in the Welsh Affairs Committee's
Press Notice of4 August.
1.2 The Secretary of State for Culture,
Media and Sport is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting,
and will retain this responsibility following the creation of
the National Assembly for Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales
is responsible for the establishment of the National Assembly.
1.3 The Secretary of State for Wales intends
that the proceedings and affairs of the Assembly should be conducted
in as public and transparent a manner as possible. This was made
clear in the Government's White Paper "A Voice for Wales"
(July 1977); and the Government of Wales Act 1998 (Section 70)
places a number of requirements on the Assembly to ensure that
it operates in an open way.
1.4 The consultation paper of the National
Assembly Advisory Group (NAAG) in April 1998 recognised that the
way in which the majority of people would be able to keep most
closely in touch with the Assembly and its work would be through
television and radio coverage. NAAG therefore proposed (paragraph
7.11 of the consultation paper) that broadcasting facilities should
be planned as an integral part of the development of the Assembly's
main home and wider network; and that as much as possible of the
Assembly's proceedings should be available to as wide a public
as possible. NAAG's final report, published in August 1998, recommended
(at paragraphs 4.2 and 5.3 respectively) that the Assembly's plenary
sessions and those of its committee meetings held in public should
be accessible to broadcasters wishing to record the proceedings.
1.5 The Secretary of State for Wales shares
these views and believes that the practical task of creating the
National Assembly offers a unique opportunity to use modern communications,
including broadcasting, to encourage the people of Wales to take
a close and participative interest in the Assembly and its work.
2.1 Party political broadcasting
The Government is not responsible for the allocation
of party political broadcasts for the Assembly elections. Party
political and party election broadcasts are matters for the broadcasters
and the political parties, who will have to devise a formula for
deciding the number of party political broadcasts to which each
party is entitled in the course of the Assembly election campaign.
(In parliamentary elections, party political broadcasts are allocated
according to the number of votes each party won at the previous
election). The Registration of Political Parties Bill provides
for party political broadcasts to be restricted to political parties.
2.2 Voter education/Additional Member System
The Government will be launching a public information
campaign, nearer the time, on how to vote under the new Additional
Member System. Consideration is being given to the best medium,
or mix of media, for communicating this information.
2.3 Coverage of the Count
The Assembly elections, on 6 May 1999, will
be combined with the unitary authority elections on that day.
The Secretary of State for Wales has accepted the recommendation
of the Assembly Elections Working Group (comprising Welsh Office
officials and representatives of the returning officers and elections
administrators in Wales) that the counting of the two votes in
the Assembly elections (constituency and electoral region) should
start on the Friday morning after polling day ie 7 May 1999. This
is designed to ensure that the Assembly counts are carried out
as efficiently as possible, with a co-ordinated Friday morning
start throughout Wales. It will be for the relevant returning
officer to decide when to hold the unitary authority counts. It
will be for the broadcasters to decide how to cover the counting
and the announcement of results on 7 May.
3.1 Welsh Office Task Group
The Welsh Office is working in close partnership
with the principal Welsh broadcasters: BBC Wales, HTV Wales and
S4C. The Department established a task group earlier this year,
which includes representatives of the broadcasters and written
press in Wales, to advise the Secretary of State for Wales on
the detailed arrangements for broadcasting the Assembly and subsequently
to ensure that those arrangements are in place by the time the
Assembly first meets in 1999. It will then be for the Assembly
itself to revise or adjust those arrangements as it sees fit.
The terms of reference and membership of the Department's Task
Group on Assembly Broadcasting are at Annex 1.
3.2 The Task Group has submitted to the
Secretary of State for Wales its recommendations on the principles
and rules of coverage for broadcasting the proceedings of the
Assembly (Annex 2). He will be referring these issues for consideration
by the all-party Assembly Preparations Group, which he has recently
established to ensure continuing political consensus on a range
of practical matters relating to the establishment of the Assembly.
3.3 Other broadcasters
In addition to the broadcasters represented
on the Task Group, the Welsh Office has also sought to establish
the intentions of other operators concerning coverage of the Assembly.
There has been a limited response to date but the Chairman of
the Independent Television Commission has offered the Commissions'
active support in encouraging the network broadcasters to report
the work of the National Assembly in a full and proper way. The
Secretary of State for Wales welcomes this, since he believes
it to be of fundamental importance that the Assembly should be
reported as widely as possible throughout the UK and beyond, as
well as in Wales.
4. COSTS OF
4.1 The Welsh Office is also working in
a spirit of close partnership with the broadcasters on the associated
financial and management arrangements. To provide for a continuation
of that partnership under the Assembly, and to safeguard the legitimate
interests of both the Assembly and the broadcasters, the arrangements
are likely to be on a similar basis to those operating at Westminster.
This means that a contract will be let to a host broadcaster who
will then produce the signal for the Assembly and the broadcasters
to use. On present thinking, these arrangements would be overseen
by a management board comprising representatives of the Assembly
and the broadcasters.
4.2 The broadcasters have been consulted
on the specification for the host broadcaster and are represented
on the tender evaluation panel. The Welsh Office aims to award
the contract in October 1998. The cost of managing the broadcast
signal will be known once the contract has been awarded. The Welsh
Office is currently discussing with BBC Wales, HTV Wales and S4C
how these costs will be apportioned.
4.3 Assembly accommodation for broadcasters
A permanent Host Broadcast Centre will be established
in Crickhowell House, adjacent to the temporary main chamber.
From this central technical area, the host broadcaster will provide
coverage of activities within the main chamber and committee rooms.
The host signal will be fed to the various broadcasting organisations
for their own editing and use. These organisations will also have
permanent space in Crickhowell House.
4.4 In establishing the temporary facilities
for the Assembly, one of the main requirements has been that the
design of both the chamber and committee rooms must be suitable
for broadcasting. The Welsh Office has commissioned the services
of an independent broadcasting specialist to provide the necessary
technical input into the building and infrastructure design.
4.5 Similar care will be taken in the design
of the new building. Based on a collaborative document produced
by the broadcasting organisations, outline requirements for effective
presentation of the Assembly have been included in the New Build
Design Inception Brief. This brief will need to be expanded as
the scheme progresses into detailed planning later this year.
4.6 The Welsh Office is currently considering
the mechanisms which will also need to be put into place for effective
monitoring and regulation of the Assembly's broadcasting arrangements.
This could be done by means of the proposed management board,
and the working assumption is that these matters would fall within
the jurisdiction of the Assembly's Presiding Officer. Again, this
is an issue on which the Secretary of State for Wales expects
to seek the views of the Assembly Preparations Group.
5. ASSEMBLY TELEVISION
5.1 For some viewers in Wales, the only
television signals they can receive are English broadcasts. In
addition, in areas where there is a choice of signal, a significant
proportion of viewers choose to receive broadcasts from England
in preference to those from Wales. The Secretaries of State would
welcome an extension of the potential of Welsh broadcasters to
reach audiences in Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales has
urged the broadcasters to do all that they can to make this possible,
including taking maximum advantage of developing broadcasting
technologies such as digital transmission and cable distribution.
5.2 The increasing integration of information
technologies offers opportunities to supplement the interpreted
broadcasting of the Assembly's proceedings by distributing both
text-based and visual information over various networks, including
the Internet, to locations such as schools, colleges, libraries
and local authorities throughout Wales. The Secretary of State
for Wales is keen to maximise these opportunities.
6. ROLE OF
6.1 The Government has said that, following
devolution, responsibility for S4C and for broadcasting in general
will remain with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
There are two important reasons for this. First, although technical
changes are creating more opportunities for regional and local
broadcasting, such services are increasingly provided by national
or multinational concerns. The Government believes that this must
be recognised in the making of policy. Regulatory frameworks should
be national ones so that the competitiveness of the UK broadcasting
industry is not impaired by multiple regulation. Second, the broadcasting
spectrum is a scarce resource, which is more efficiently used
if allocation is planned on a UK basis.
6.2 This does not however exclude the Assembly
from considering broadcasting matters, and expressing its views,
since it is empowered to consider all matters relating to Wales.
The Assembly will be able to call witnesses to assist its considerations;
and it will be consulted about appointments to the S4C Board and
about Welsh representation on other broadcasting bodies. The Department
for Culture, Media and Sport also intends to consult the Assembly
on all broadcasting issues with distinctively Welsh implications,
and to consider how the Assembly's legitimate interest in many
broadcasting issues can best be met. The broadcasting regulators
will place their annual reports before the Assembly to inform
and assist its considerations.
6.3 In addition, the Secretary of State
for Wales will be able to continue to make his or her views on
broadcasting issues known within the Government.
7.1 Digital broadcasting is a new, more
efficient way of transmitting radio and television services. It
allows much more information than before to be transmitted on
a single frequency channel. As a result, digital transmission
can offer viewers and listeners more choice, extra services, interactivity
and higher quality picture and sound. Digital test transmissions
have already started in some parts of Wales and the commercial
multiplexes hope to start full digital terrestrial services before
the end of this year. The Welsh transmitters included in the launch
plan are scheduled to be fully operational within 12 months of
the launch date. The existing analogue services of the BBC, the
ITV network, S4C and Channel 4 will be replicated (simulcast)
7.2 Nine of the 81 transmitters included
in the digital terrestrial television launch plan are in Wales.
Spectrum constraints presented by the topography of Wales mean
that the three multiplexes carrying the digital simulcasts of
analogue services will achieve a coverage of between 63 per cent
and 70 per cent of the Welsh population. The bulk of remaining
digital services will, when launched, achieve significantly less
coverage (again due to spectrum constraints).
7.3 Cable distribution of television services
(including future digital transmissions on cable) is not subject
to topographical interference. Cable services are most cost-effective
in areas of high population concentration and broadband cable
provision has to date focused on South Wales. The Independent
Television Commission (ITC) awarded the broadband cable franchise
for North Wales and South Cheshire in July to Metro Communications
Ltd. This will mean that 30.5 per cent of the population of Wales
will be covered by broadband cable provision.
7.4 The Government is presently consulting
on the transition from analogue to digital television. Responses
to the consultation document including responses from broadcasters
in Wales are being considered. Several respondents have commented
on the delivery of digital terrestrial services to areas which
will not be reached by the services included in the launch phase.
The Government will be taking forward consideration of how best
to deliver digital services in Wales in discussion with the ITC,
the BBC and broadcasters.