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Portrayal of Wales on screen needs urgent improvement

16 June 2016

The Welsh Affairs Committee finds that representation of Welsh life on screen needs serious improvement as media plurality reaches worryingly low levels.

Television audiences in Wales rely heavily on their public service broadcasters (PSBs), and to a greater extent than those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As such, the governance and funding structures of Welsh PSBs should only be reviewed with close consideration of the particular context within which the industry operates in Wales.

The Committee's report concludes that as the broadcasting landscape continues to develop, Welsh broadcasters should have a stronger voice at the table when decisions are made.

Chair's comments

On publishing the report, Committee Chair, David TC Davies says:

"It is worrying that there has been such a consistent degradation in the portrayal of Welsh life on screen, both in Wales and across the UK, in English and Welsh. There has been a continuing reduction in spend and output of programmes made for Wales. This, combined with a lack of commercial alternatives, has weakened media plurality in Wales even further.

Whilst we welcome the Government's decision to review the remit and scope of S4C and the BBC's assurances that more will be spent on dedicated services for Wales, the detail of such proposals are scant. We call for further clarification on the impact and content of these proposals.

The BBC's commissioning process needs serious improvement. We heard overwhelmingly critical evidence of the current structure. In the next Charter, Wales should have a position on the BBC's proposed new unitary board and a National Service Licence for Wales should be introduced to replace the current structure. We believe that such measures will provide a first step in addressing our concerns. They will also support a vibrant Welsh independent production sector which is of such importance to the economy and industry in Wales."

BBC Content

BBC Cymru Wales acknowledged that their non-news output for Wales had eroded in recent years. There has been a decline in both the specific media provision for Welsh audiences and the level of portrayal of Wales to the rest of the UK. We welcome the BBC's response to the proposals for the next Charter in dedicating more money to services in each of the Nations but more detail is needed.

BBC Governance

Decisions affecting broadcasters in Wales should be transparent and subject to comprehensive consultation with those who best understand the industry in Wales. There should be a board member for Wales on the BBC's governance board and a National Service Licence should be introduced. These will allow for greater freedom to develop services that best serve audiences in Wales and also allow for greater scrutiny of decisions.

BBC Commissioning

The BBC's commissioning process needs serious reform as production quotas have not worked in terms of portraying Wales on screen. Whilst we welcome proposals to have a drama commissioning editor for Wales, this should also be extended to non-news genres and these roles should be based in Wales.


As the only Welsh language television channel in the world, S4C is integral to the continued growth of Welsh language life and culture. The Government's decision to cancel this year's grant cut and review the channel, following our call to do so is to be commended. However, we note that prolonged uncertainty is an unhealthy and inefficient way for broadcasters to be funded. We therefore recommend that the channel is reviewed on a regular basis to mitigate the risk of future uncertainty and ensure that its public service remit is fulfilled to the fullest possible extent.

Further information

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