Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Second Report


24.  Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Development Agency

INTRODUCTION

  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 across Wales.

SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION COMPANIES

  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.

BENCHMARKING OF INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION COMPANIES

  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.

THE GWYNEDD MULTIMEDIA PROGRAMME

  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.

IMPLICATIONS FOR WALES OF DIGITAL BROADCASTING

  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

Chief Executive

15 January 1999





 
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