Adding to our democratic deficit

This is what Huw Edwards said at the beginning of the first edition of The Wales Report last night:

"We'll be looking at Welsh life in all its diversity and asking searching questions about our future. We'll be talking to those making decisions and the people whose lives are affected by them.

"And yes, that does mean politics, that's essential – but the Wales Report is about more than that. It has to be or you won't be getting the big picture that we've been promising you."

Cutting through the euphemisms, this means the BBC will have ditched Dragon's Eye, a programme devoted to Welsh Politics, and replaced it with a programme in which the focus will be on other things in addition to politics.

So at a time when our political institutions have gained more power over our lives, and are set to gain even more as a result of the Silk Commission, the BBC has decided to give less attention to politics in Wales.


In addition to this, it appears that the Wales Report is aiming to be a more populist programme, with more emphasis on what viewers have to say through tweets and emails. Of course there's nothing at all wrong with such an approach, but moving in that direction is bound to be detrimental to more specialist in-depth coverage. So we've been hit with a double whammy.


I'm well aware that the BBC has to cope with cuts and something has to give. But the BBC is not treating Wales in the same way as it treats Scotland. For those who aren't aware of it, Scotland has two significant political opt outs from the BBC's standard UK-wide political coverage:

     The typical format of the Sunday Politics is for the first 30 minutes to
     come from London, then for a 20 minute regional slot, then a return to
     London for the last 10 minutes. Scotland, however, does not take the
     final ten minute slot, but instead continues with Scottish politics for 60
     minutes, so that the total programme length is 90 minutes. The
     additional 30 minutes makes up for the fact that Scotland does not
     have an equivalent to Dragon's Eye/The Wales Report, which is fair and
     equal. But Scotland does get 10 minutes more dedicated political
     reporting than anywhere else in the UK by not taking the final 10
     minute slot from London.

     For most of the UK Newsnight is a 50 minute programme between
     Monday and Thursday. But Scotland only takes the first 30 minutes of
     it, with the remaining 20 minutes of the slot replaced by Newsnight

Taken together, this means that in a typical week Scotland has exactly the same overall amount of political programming as any other part of the UK. But by opting out of some UK-wide coverage, it has 90 minutes more time devoted specifically to Scottish politics and current affairs than Wales used to get ... and even more than Wales will now receive because the Wales Report will only be partly dedicated to politics. This is grossly unfair to Wales and can only add to our democratic deficit.


So I would like to renew my call for the BBC to give Wales the same opt outs from UK-wide political programming as they have given Scotland. Why should we be treated so differently? Establishing a Newsnight Wales would be particularly appropriate because the format is geared towards more specialist, in-depth coverage; and this would help to balance the more populist, but equally valid, format of the Wales Report.

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

The BBC in Wales, it can't be called BBC Wales, is fast becoming a British version of Russia Today.

There has been no coverage on BBC in English or on Newyddion to the huge events in Catalonia or last night in the Basque Country. It infantiles Wales.

You have to ask, what is the point of BBC Wales news? It's just a provincial news service. Why are we paying these journalists nice wages, in Welsh at least, just to translate the English service.

I'll wait to see, but I'm afraid Wales Report will be light, human interest stories

More to the point, MH, does anyone watch and listen to BBC Cymru Wales news? I don't, I get international news from Radio 4, Golwg360 in Welsh and then blogs like yours. Who needs BBC Wales news?

Anonymous said...

"The BBC in Wales, it can't be called BBC Wales, is fast becoming a British version of Russia Today."

If only!

If you want coverage in English of "the huge events in Catalonia or last night in the Basque Country." you need to watch ...... Russia Today.

Anonymous said...

As a political geek I pumped myself up for this. It was dire and boring. Production values looked decent but the content was just glum.

Ironically Russia Today actually covers interesting and "edgy" stuff like the Basque Country and Catalonia. Presumably because Russian broadcasters want to poke the main EU countries in the eye and be 'awkward'.

As things stand though I'm sorry to say we can write off the Wales Report as being a replacement for Dragon's Eye. It's going to be a 'human interest' programme that tries to widen the net but ends up being vague and attracting nobody.

What we need is an English-language Welsh Question Time, screened in a decent slot (NOT the same time as UK Question Time) on a week night, with Betsan Powys or whoever presenting it, questions from the audience, proper advertising etc, discussing Welsh and international issues so its not parochial and boring. If you put it on at decent hours, advertised it well, had good social media tie-in, people would tune in.

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, in addition to my comments above, I think Vaughan Roderick as well as Betsan would be an ideal presenter for a Welsh Question Time.

MH said...

Yes, what Huw Edwards described as "Welsh life in all its diversity" is a euphemism for what Anon 15:43 and 16:39 have called light, human-interest stories. In itself, there's nothing wrong with that ... but it means there will be that much less time for Welsh politics.

I'm sure what we saw last night is more politically orientated than most of what we'll get in future. Call it a loss leader. But that said, I was fairly impressed with Huw Edwards as a questioner. He's not in the Paxman mold, but his rather light touch reminded me of Andrew Marr's approach. By being friendly he draws people out and they drop their guard, and this allows him to slip in some sharp points. David Jones started by looking more relaxed than I've ever seem him before, but he was put on the spot and eventually gave some revealing answers. So I'm not questioning the quality of the new format, I'm pointing out the reduction in quantity.


I'm not sure what 15:43 meant by BBC Cymru Wales news. If you mean Wales Today, then I watch it when I can. I didn't mention it because the 30 minute main programme at 6:30 and short bulletins after the other news are the standard format throughout the UK. It is the same for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the regions of England.

If on the other hand you meant Newyddion, then I watch that too. In fact if I had to watch only one news programme, that is the one I'd choose.

And on the language issue, no-one can claim that Wales doesn't get treated as favourably as Scotland because the BBC broadcasts in two languages in Wales. Newyddion is exactly matched by An Là on BBC Alba, and Eòrpa (if it comes back) takes up an equivalent weekly slot to our CF99.


I'd agree with 16:39 about a Welsh Question Time. Pawb a'i Farn (even though we only get it a few times a year) is an excellent programme, and it would be good to get an English language version. Non Welsh speakers don't know what they're missing.

As an alternative to a brand new programme, perhaps it could start as a once-a-month replacement for Question Time with parallel English, Scottish and Northern Ireland versions on that week. Maybe David Dimbleby would then stop telling his panelists that QT is a UK programme and that viewers aren't interested in and won't understand Welsh and Scottish affairs. He did it again last week, even though the programme was from Glasgow.

Anonymous said...

It would appear BBC Wales exists only to promote and subsidise professional ruby, politics and current affairs come a poor second in their priorities.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bother opting out for the Sunday Programmes- only political activists seem to watch those.
But definitely a Newsnight Wales should be an alternative, in fact I'd prefer no Wales report on a Sunday to have just a few of these a week.

You also forget MH the very good coverage STV gives to Scottish politics.

What also annoys me is that any Welsh programme is about Wales. Why can't we have a programme from Wales about global or European issues. I sometimes watch RTE just so I can have a different take from London on issues. Personally I can't see things improving until the 'main' news on BBC/ITV are based in Cardiff, Edinburgh and so forth. Albeit using similar reports (e.g if there is a flood in Guatemala) but with a different take on other things where we have our own reporters e.g a Westminster reporter.

But on the whole I would say the single undemocratic thing that worries me most in Wales is the lack of accountability the Assembly and Government has to the media. Although I am passionately for more powers, the one thing that worries me is if we are to have tax powers- who are going to hold politicians to account. As many of the decisions had there been a decent Welsh media would have caused havoc for the government... I'm talking about AWEMA. Had this happened in London, a government member would probably have been disciplined. This is very worrying indeed.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,MH, the coverage in Welsh may be better than the coverage in English, but that's only because the coverage in English is so useless.

There was no, absolutely, no coverage of the 1.3million march in Catalonia on Newyddion or Radio Cymru. This is a deliberate policy by the BBC in Wales. There was plenty of money to cover the Olympics but none to cover international news from a Welsh perspective.

The sooner the BBC goes the better.

The more I read BBC Scotlandshire the more I'm reminded of BBC 'Wales'

The best thing that S4C could do is get its news service from an independent company. The BBC in Wales is smug, complacent, patrionising and gives a British view of the world. There's absolutely no point watching it unless your interested in rugby or accidents.

Anonymous said...

This little video from Scotland 'Preserve the Union; a Guide for Unionistst' reminds me of BBC 'Wales' / Newyddion news coverage (around 2'.50", insert rugby for Old Firm).

Anonymous said...

very timely piece MH..with some excellent contributions and valid points from from posters...the comments from anon at 20.01 are particularly pertinent i feel. No way would the british government in london get away with refusing to comment on a major issue the way ministers in the welsh government appear to have got away with it over awema.

on the issue of a 'welsh version' of question time i think im right in saying there was such a programme in the 'honeymoon' period after the yes vote in the devolution referendum in 1997.

Indeed if memory serves me right the then wales coach graham henry was a panelist on one programme. But like a lot of other positive developments that seemed to occur after the yes vote this programme seemed to disappear around the time of Ron Davies's demise as welsh secretary.

Leigh Richards

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with comments made above but I don't understand the point that says "the sooner the BBC goes the better". This wouldn't mean an improvement in Welsh coverage. It would mean even less coverage! I don't understand the mindset that says abolish something because it isn't doing well enough. I would invest more in BBC Wales not less. More, better programmes about Wales and Welsh focus on international issues.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I find Dragon's Eye a bit boring...

Post a Comment