24. Memorandum submitted by the Welsh
1. The Welsh Development Agency welcomes
the opportunity to respond to the request from the Committee to
submit evidence outlining the work being undertaken by the Agency
in the field of broadcasting in Wales.
2. The Agency and its partners recognise
the economic significance for Wales of the arts and cultural industries,
which include broadcasting. A study on the Economic Significance
of the Arts and Cultural Industries in Wales undertaken in 1998
estimated an output of over £1.1 billion for these industries
which employ almost 23,000 full time equivalent jobs. This research
identified specific activities with potential for success highlighting
the film and television production and multimedia sectors.
3. There are an estimated 250 multimedia
companies in Wales employing 5,100 permanent and 1,150 temporary
staff in skilled jobs, evenly split between male and female. Multimedia
includes programme post-production activities such as computer
graphics, audio and visual editing, publishing, website design
and internet consultancies. Production companies are well established
in Cardiff as well as in Aberystwyth and North Wales. Cardiff
is also the base for the three broadcasting companies, and has
a strong multimedia sector indeed, it is recognised as the second
centre of multimedia in the UK (to London) and a major centre
for animation in Europe.
4. Against this background the submission
focuses on the Agency's activities in support of the broadcasting
and multimedia industries for furthering economic development
5. The Agency provides direct support to
companies and support for organisations which represent independent
producers, such as Sgrin Wales, TAC (Teledwyr Annibynol Cymru)
and the Independent Producers Trade Association. The Agency has
been working with these organisations over the last year in developing
an appropriate benchmarking programme for the sector.
6. This support is being taken forward in
parallel with ongoing research commissioned by the Agency on sourcing
opportunities for the Welsh Media industry. Whilst the report
has yet to be finalised, the conclusions being drawn are that
the re-organisation policies being implemented by UK broadcasters
are not yet complete; and there will be more opportunities for
Welsh producers to contribute to UK Network Programmes in the
near future as these policies begin to take effect, and that Welsh
producers should be ready to take full advantage of these opportunities.
7. The Agency proposes to take on board
these conclusions, together with the outcome of the benchmarking
exercise described below, along with a programme on sourcing opportunities
for the media industry during the next financial year and beyond.
8. Benchmarking is a process which evaluates
organisations against a European standard. The Agency has been
running a benchmarking programme for businesses in a range of
sectors under the Source Wales banner for over three years.
9. The benchmarking exercise here has been
developed following consultation with S4C, the main customer,
on the implications of the possible opening up of new markets.
This was followed by a presentation to 14 independent production
companies, a number of which agreed to follow up by undertaking
the benchmarking exercise which covers key issues such as strategic
planning, business processes, collaboration, diversification of
the product and customer base, and outputs.
10. This five year ERDF supported programme
commenced in June 1995. The objective was for the Agency to work
with the television media companies in Gwynedd to assist them
in taking advantage of the growth in multimedia and new media
opportunities. The programme, developed in association with TAC
and Cyfle also recognised the need for the development of networks
and new partnerships with people and businesses not readily considered
to be operating within the sector.
11. The programme has led to the audit and
promotion of 25 independent producers and the identification of
a similar number of potential partners. Networking support has
resulted in EU Interreg funding support of £600,000 to Sgrin
for project development in conjunction with Irish producers. The
pump-priming of pilot projects has realised new projects such
as a web link for programmes and the creation of an archive database.
12. Other Agency activities include support
for the North Wales Film Commission and Television Group
which promotes the area as a location for film making
and is in the process of collating a database of all multimedia
services available in the locality.
13. The Agency believes that Wales is well
placed to secure competitive and creative advantage from digital
broadcasting for its independent producers and companies producing
multimedia content. We are aware that a response is already being
made through the restructuring and rationalisation of the sector
with a far more commercial approach being adopted on account of
fewer production companies being commissioned for an increased
programme schedule under a static budget.
14. The Agency is working in close liaison
with the Digital College to ensure that the National Grid for
Learning which will link schools and libraries to the internet
is fully exploited in helping to develop the skills base across
Wales which is essential for future economic competitiveness.
W B Willott
15 January 1999