Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Second Report

13.  Memorandum submitted by Mr Gareth Price

  My views on the subject of TV coverage of the Welsh Assembly can be summarised in a few sentences.

  1.  The coverage should be as comprehensive as possible. The consortium allocated to cover the Assembly should be allowed total access to both the plenary sessions and committees, particularly since there will be far more time devoted to the committees than plenary sessions. The transparency of the Welsh Assembly in all its workings will depend on this freedom of access. The Consortium's coverage should be regarding as a "clean feed" allowing access to the BBC, S4C, HTV and other media as required.

  2.  This coverage would be paid for under the Assembly contract currently under tender to various consortia. The selected broadcasting consortium would also be expected to provide edited extracts to various broadcasters for a fee. Such arrangements can be created for the Welsh Assembly by adapting the system currently used by the Houses of Parliament.

  3.  The Assembly itself should regulate but not control the work of the broadcasters. Editorial control should be the prerogative of the broadcast organisations based on the material passed to them by the broadcast consortium. However, the Assembly needs to regulate with a light touch in order to ensure that there is no abuse of sensitive situations. Short guidelines should be established by an Assembly sub-committee and issued to the selected broadcast consortium. They would address the problems of how certain situations are covered eg the extreme possibility of an Assembly speaker collapsing.

  4.  The sub-committee should be as small as possible. An avoidance of political party representation would be preferable. One possible idea would be that it should be the prerogative of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker who would consider any possible abuse of coverage with the advice of an independent media expert. Such problems should be considered retrospectively given that the sub-committee, following the agreement of guidelines with the broadcaster, should only be concerned with singular "live" events.

  5.  The simpler the system and the more transparent the system the better.

  Finally, I should establish my credentials as a former Controller of BBC Wales who has no vested interest in the coverage of the Assembly although I am Project Manager of the monitoring group of the Compliance committee of S4C. As a member of that Compliance committee, we monitor S4C broadcasts regarding matters of political balance, taste, decency and the use of English and Welsh languages on S4C.


The Thomson Foundation

29 September 1998

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