Memorandum submitted by the BBC
The main part of this memorandum will concentrate
on the role of BBC Wales as the focus for programmes for and about
Wales within the BBC. It is the national broadcaster for Wales,
being the only broadcaster addressing the nation in both its languages
and across radio, television and online. Its success rests on
a thorough cultural understanding of its diverse audiences, which
gives it an unique platform to project that culture to the rest
of the world.
The BBC World Service is also a key channel
of communication about Wales to the wider world. Broadcasting
in 43 languages, and reaching an audience of 151 million, it has
a claim to be the world's most successful international broadcaster.
It is funded through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by a
Parliamentary Grant in Aid. One of its main objectives is to promote
interest in modern, contemporary Britain: promoting Wales clearly
falls within its scope.
In August 1999, BBC Wales launched its Online
News service in the English language. This is a rolling news service
staffed from 0600 until 2200 each weekday and for eight hours
a day at weekends, seven days a week. It provides the top Welsh
news stories with text and images, together with real video and
real audio versions of the stories. This was the first daily rolling
internet news service for Wales, and for the first time, this
made BBC Wales's news programmes available outside the BBC Wales
transmitter area, and opened up Welsh news to a new worldwide
audience. This service has proved very successful, producing steadily
increasing numbers of page impressions. The average figures have
more than doubled since the launch in August 1999. During the
petrol crisis of September 2000, the service registered its biggest
number of page impressions in a single weekmore than 300,000,
and on November 14, 1999, the service registered its biggest number
of page impressions in a single day so far123,000. Usage
figures are growing steadily. The service attracts many visitors
from overseas, not only Welsh expatriates, but also those taking
an interest in Welsh affairs. These include a large overseas audience
for BBC Wales Online's Welsh learners' series Catchphrase.
Many of these users send e-mails with queries and comments, and
we are increasingly using this bank of e-mail addresses for direct
news and sport services. The web address (URL) for the service
On St David's Day 2000, BBC Wales launched BBC
Cymru'r Byd, its Welsh-language internet service. As the name
(it translates roughly as "BBC Wales across the World")
suggests, the aim of this service is to present a regular snapshot
of Wales through the medium of the Welsh language. The core is
a rolling news service with the same staffing levels and hours
of cover as the English service, the only difference being that
it presents world and UK news as well as Welsh news. In addition,
the site comprises a magazine section with a discussion forum,
feature articles, columnists, games and interactive features.
Again, it features Welsh-language news material in real audio
and real video format, as well as a live stream of the entire
Radio Cymru service. Some of its users are from overseas, and
somewho have learned the language but who have never heard
it spokenhave testified to having heard Welsh for the first
time ever via this service. Welsh speakers living overseas are
able to listen live to Welsh radio programmes, listen to the latest
news bulletins, and watch extracts from Welsh televisionand
can consequently participate in Welsh life and Welsh affairs to
a degree hitherto impossible. Listeners have sent in live e-mails
to programmes from the USA, and have phoned in from as far afield
as Pakistan into live radio programmes. The status this service
has brought Wales might be gauged by the fact that, on the front
page of the BBC's News Online service for the whole world, news
is offered in five other world languages : Arabic, Chinese, Russian,
Spanish and Welsh. The Cymru'r Byd site, produced by a
team of around six core staff, has exceeded all expectations of
its usage figures and currently attracts over 30,000 page impressions
a week, and has provided the only daily Welsh-language news service
on the internet, and what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive
Welsh-language internet site in existence. It also contains, for
instance, a specially commissioned history of Wales written by
Dr John Davies, which is the first history of Wales in Welsh on
the internet. Eurolang, the EU's news service about minority languages,
have assured us there is nothing like BBC Cymru'r Byd in any other
minority European language. It represents for minority languages
on the Internet what S4C represented for minority languages on
televisionan agenda-setting, standard-setting service whose
success and expertise Wales can hold up as an example to other
cultures. The address is http://www.bbc.co.uk/cymru
These services are produced to the highest standards
of the BBC's award-winning News Online service, although they
are funded from within Wales, and are completely editorially independent
of London. Taken together, they provide a constantly-updated service
of news about Wales, in Welsh and English, as well as a range
of other material, to audiences not just in Wales, but overseas.
Building on the success of Cymru'r Byd is one
of the objectives set by the Broadcasting Council for Wales for
BBC Wales in 2000-01.
BBC Wales is a major employer of artistic talent
in Wales, and plays a vital role in projecting that talent beyond
Wales through its contributions to network radio and television
in the UK.
Recent production which have achieved network exposure
comedy dramas Dirty Work and
popular valleys-based drama Belonging,
shortly returning to the screens for a much anticipated second
a compendium of rural life in This
Land, which has just been recommissioned;
documentary account of the unearthing
of the splendid Lost Gardens of Aberglasney;
magical family drama The Magician's
House (winner of an International Emmy Award);
major musical events such as Cardiff
Singer of the World as described in the section on music below.
Radio highlights include
sessions for Radio 1 in Cardiff acknowledging
the burgeoning youth culture of Wales;
producing for Radio 2 the thrilling
competition to find the Voice of Musical Theatre 2000a
successful pilot for future festivals of musical theatre;
long running strands such as Composer
of the Week for Radio 3 together with relays from Welsh National
Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, documentaries and
drama on Radio 4 ranging from adaptations
of Welsh classics (Shadow of the Sickle and The Owl
Service) to star-studded comedies on contemporary themes (Only
a Matter of Time and Time Added On for Injuries)
Digital technology makes Radio Wales's broadcasts
available via the Astra satellite across Western Europe.
The post of Business Development Manager within
BBC Wales was created 18 months agothe first time the function
of co-production had been devolved from the BBC in London. BBC
Wales still works closely with BBC Worldwide (Europe's largest
programme exporter) but now we attend the international trade
fairs and visit customers abroad independently. The way forward
is not in selling programmes (there is oversupply and average
prices in the marketplace have fallen for the last 2 years) but
in joint ventures and co-productions. These do not always deal
with Welsh themes, but enhance the reputation of BBC Wales's programme
makers in the industry in a way which ultimately encourages inward
We would note that as BBC Worldwide is not an
organisation with its headquarters in Wales it is excluded from
most export initiatives or schemes.
This year BBC Wales delivers its first factual
co-productions to Discovery. Discovery Communications Inc, is
the world's largest commissioner and broadcaster of documentaries.
The programmes are Castles of Horror (20 x half hour) and
Underworldthe pilot for a series which takes a revealing
look at a well-known location (in this case underground London).
Castles of Horror features
Welsh and European locations, hosted by Lionel Fanthorpe. It will
be shown on The Travel Channel in the US, People & Arts in
Latin America, and offered to other customers around the globe
by BBC Worldwidewe already have interest from Canada. It
will also be shown on UK Horizons and on BBC Wales. A slate of
new programmes is currently being prepared for next year in partnership
with DCI: details of these are commercially sensitive and cannot
yet be disclosed.
Among the BBC Wales programmes currently being
offered overseas by BBC Worldwide are zany sketch show Lucky
Bag; family fantasy The Magician's House; hard-hitting
drama Care featuring the harrowing issue of child abuse;
coverage of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Pilgrimage to Bach;
and the premiere of Karl Jenkins's millennium commission for the
BBC National Orchestra of Wales Dewi Sant.
Examples can be cited of multiple sales to foreign
territories. Cardiff Singer of the World has been sold
to thirteen countries; costume drama Drovers' Gold to ten;
contemporary drama Jack of Hearts to six; and our account
of the history of rugby, The Union Game, to fifteen. Other
programmes not yet broadcast but intended for international markets
include innovative format Classic Challenge which sees
a composer commissioned to produce a work within a week; a heartwarming
comedy drama about football, Score!; and further episodes
of daredevilry in Extreme Lives.
BBC Wales is also making a programme for the
Timewatch strandrecreating a Roman boot camp to
bring history alive. Timewatch is shown on A&E network
in the US, and again BBC Worldwide distribute in the rest of the
In partnership with S4C, BBC Wales has also
contributed in the past year to the development of animated literary
classics , including the Oscar nominated The Canterbury Tales,
Beowulf, Don Quixote and Moby Dick. An animated
version of the Mabinogi is currently in production.
Along with other Welsh broadcasters, BBC Wales
supports Sgrin, the media agency for Wales, which is responsible
for the promotion of film in Wales and beyond.
Music deserves a heading of its own. BBC Wales
is a designated centre of excellence for music production within
the BBC, in recognition of both the strong history of high-quality
programme making from Wales and the cultural vibrancy of the musical
scene nation-wide. BBC Wales's music department is internationally
recognised for its strengths, covering the whole range of music
from classical to pop.
A highlight of the BBC's music calendar is Cardiff
Singer of the World, the world's foremost operatic singing
competition, about to enter its twentieth year, with broadcasts
on BBC2, BBC Knowledge, Radio 3 and its own website. The international
profile of contestants is matched by extensive international coverage
of the event. The Leeds Piano Competition is also produced
by BBC Wales, as is the popular UK Choir of the Year, extending
the reputation of Welsh television production teams.
In 1999 Voices of a Nation celebrated
the inauguration of the Welsh Assembly with a stunning array of
Welsh performing talent, broadcast on BBC Choice, BBC1 and BBC2.
In October 2000 BBC Wales was responsible in partnership with
Radio 2 for a new vocal competition, Voice of Music Theatre
2000. Building on the success of the event, the BBC will host
an International Festival of Music Theatre in 2002, making Cardiff
a must-visit location for lovers of musicals and cabaret singing.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales and its
Chorus functions as both a BBC broadcasting orchestra and as the
national symphony orchestra of Wales. Its funding position is
unique, with a combination of grants and revenue from broadcasters
(BBC 75 per cent, S4C 3 per cent), the Arts Council of Wales (12
per cent) and the private sector (10 per cent).
One of the main national roles of the Orchestra
is to act as a cultural ambassador for Wales through broadcasts
and touring. The Orchestra is a regular broadcaster on Radio 3
with a combination of live concert broadcasts, deferred relays,
and studio recordings delivering up to seven hours= programming
every week. With frequent appearances on the BBC's other radio
and television networks, it is in fact the UK's most televised
The Orchestra's record of foreign touring is
less successful. Touring a 90-piece orchestra is expensive and,
because of the frequency of concerts on tour, programmes must
be repeated, so that income from broadcasts is limited. The Orchestra
has not therefore toured abroad for five years. Tours are planned
for 2001 (English regions) and 2002 (Germany), but some ,120,000
of funding must be raised in partnership with the private sector
for these plans to be realised.
Central government has a decided part to play
in this area. In order to exploit cultural tourism on behalf of
Wales, central government needs to provide a climate for the expansion
and development of cross-sector partnerships (i.e. between Welsh
arts production organisations and private sector sponsors) so
that both partners benefit from the staging of events which allow
major Welsh cultural institutions access to foreign audiences.
Powerful messages about Wales's cultural achievements can be transmitted
in this way. As a point of information, the Wales Tourist Board
has in the past successfully sponsored orchestral tours, but budgetary
constraints have meant that the Board has been unable to repeat
this partnership in recent years.
The quality of BBC Wales's creative skills has
been frequently recognised by success in international awards.
Those won so far this year include:
2 Silver Medals at Promax and BDA
Europe Awards in Berlin, March 2000
Best Regional Presenter, Royal Television
Society Awards, March 2000
BAFTA for Best Short Animated Film,
Best Single Documentary at the Broadcasting
Guild Press Awards, April 2000;
Best Current Affairs Programme and
Best Education Programme at the Celtic Film and Television Awards,
Best Regional Documentary at the
Royal Television Society Sports Awards, May 2000;
Andrew Cross Award for religious
documentary, June 2000;
Two Gold medals at the Promax and
BDA USA Awards, June 2000;
Gold award for best radio documentary
from the Christian Broadcast Council, September 2000, together
with special millennium award for contribution to religious programmes
to senior BBC Wales producer Roy Jenkins;
Elgar Medal for Conductor Laureate
of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Tadaaki Otaka, November
Three Gold, Two Silver, and Two Bronze
Medals at the Promax and BCA UK Awards, November 2000; and
An International Emmy for The
Magician's House, November 2000
BBC Wales also achieved notable success in BAFTA
Wales=s Awards and the BT Welsh Press Awards.
BBC WORLD SERVICE
Stories about Wales and Welsh people are included
on merit in the World Service's daily British News programme.
People and Politics has an obligation to cover the wider
UK politics post-devolution, including stories about Wales, Welsh
MP's and the new Welsh Assembly.
World Service Sport regularly broadcasts Rugby
Union commentary from the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (including
the Wales v South Africa game on Saturday 25th November) and Welsh
sportsmen such as Colin Jackson have appeared in programmes.
Pop Music programmes have included Welsh artists,
eg Charlotte Church, Catatonia, Manic Street Preachers, Tom Jones
and Super Furry Animals. Classical Music programmes also feature
Welsh artists performing, e.g. Sir Andrew Davis and Bryn Terfel.
Specific examples of programmes that have included
a strong Welsh element include:
Lives and Times B a series
about British people told through their lives and experiences.
Programme two, broadcast in June, visited the Morgans, a hill-farming
family from mid-Wales, and talked to them about the future of
farming, how their lives have changed and the new Welsh Assembly.
World Service drama productions included
Fisher of Men, a verse play by David Constantine, with
Welsh actors: Ioan Meredith, John Ogwen and Marged Esli, which
was broadcast in May.
BBC English, the English teaching section of
the World Service, have featured Wales in many of their programmes.
The ongoing series Britain Now,
which looked at devolution and the position of Wales in relation
to the rest of the United Kingdom. This series was broadcast on
the World Service in English, with versions in Czech and Serbian.
A Vietnamese version is planned. Colin Jackson also appeared in
Britain Now. This series also features on the World Service's
with text and audio clips. Facts
about Wales and the Welsh language are contained within this site.
The Net Result, a series on
community use of the web, featured an Internet distance learning
project in Snowdonia and Anglesey.
The experiences of a Somali refugee
in Cardiff appeared in First Sight, Second Thoughts. He
now works for the Welsh Refugee Council and talks in the series
about getting a job and working in Wales.
The Centre for Alternative Technology,
Machynlleth, features in Down to Earth, a series about
sustainable agriculture and the environment.
The BBC fully appreciates that its response
to devolution should extend beyond enhanced news and current affairs
coverage. Considerable investment has been made in the Nations
and Regions to reflect the distinctive identities of not only
Wales, but also Scotland and Northern Ireland.
By attracting co-production funding from BBC
networks and other partners, BBC Wales is able to invest ever
more heavily in the development of Welsh talent, and give the
various communities of Wales a voice in the wider world.
28 November 2000