Wales

Carwyn Jones seeks Westminster talks over BBC Wales

First Minister Carwyn Jones is seeking talks with ministers in Westminster over proposed cuts to BBC Wales.

Politicians and unions have responded to a leaked document which sets out how BBC Wales could meet a corporation-wide target to save 20%.

It proposes axing current affairs programme Week In Week Out and suggests scaling back coverage of the National Eisteddfod and Royal Welsh Show.

BBC Wales said no decisions had been taken.

The document sets out how news, sport and current affairs could be affected.

The cost-cutting exercise - called Delivering Quality First (DQF) - stems from a decision last autumn to freeze the BBC licence fee.

At question time in the Senedd, Mr Jones said he shared concerns about cuts.

He has written to UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt requesting a meeting to discuss broadcasting. Broadcasting is not devolved.

"It is not acceptable to see cuts of 20% regarding broadcasting in Wales at the BBC," Mr Jones said.

"We must ensure that the BBC gives the people of Wales the service that they should receive in order to ensure that they know what goes on in their own country."

In an email to staff, BBC Wales director Keith Jones said: "I want to make it absolutely clear that no decisions on future savings have been made at this stage of the DQF process.

He said final decisions were not expected to be taken until much later this year and that final recommendations will need the approval of the BBC Trust.

All parts of the BBC had been asked to assess how they could contribute to the "challenging savings target of 20%".

'Difficult decisions'

"There will undoubtedly be a number of very difficult decisions to make - but I want to stress that the discussion and debate is on-going," he added.

BBC Wales would consult with unions when the time comes to discuss proposals, he said.

David Donovan, national organiser of the broadcasting union Bectu, said BBC Wales had additional cultural and linguistic responsibilities as a national broadcaster.

Mr Donovan said: "I accept that cuts may well be necessary in all organisations around the UK, however what I think is important is that those cuts should be proportional."

The union opposes plans to hand over responsibility for funding Welsh-language channel S4C from the government to the TV licence fee.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards called for the devolution of broadcasting, and said: "Cuts of this magnitude will destroy the concept of BBC Wales as a national broadcaster and it shows shocking contempt by the BBC in London."

Baroness Randerson, Welsh Liberal Democrat peer and former Welsh culture minister, said: "If what is being suggested here is implemented, this would have a significant impact on cultural and political life in Wales."

'Speculation'

A BBC spokesperson said: "We have made it clear that local, regional and national services will continue to be at the heart of what we do.

"We are not going to get drawn into a running commentary - no decisions have been taken and therefore these claims remain speculation.

"Any decisions coming out of the process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust."

Media commentator Steve Hewlett told BBC Radio Wales: "They { the BBC} are having to look at some pretty serious options.

"But when the BBC say no final decisions have been made as far as I'm aware that is correct and as a consequence of that one has to be very careful when, I think, looking at leaks and the emergence of bits of information about whether one is being manipulated here."

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