Wales politics

Menna Richards: English broadcasting 'threat' in Wales

The Welsh political class should fight harder to protect English language broadcasting, says former BBC Wales director Menna Richards.

She told an audience in Aberystwyth that debate over the future of Welsh broadcasting had focused on S4C.

It was "surprising" that so little attention had been given to English language programming, she said.

She suggested Scottish opinion-formers were often more effective at making their case than people in Wales.

Ms Richards was delivering the Welsh Political Archive's annual lecture at the National Library of Wales on Friday.

"It's striking that the recent debate around broadcasting has been about the future of S4C and understandably so," she said.

'Tough savings'

"Though I have found it surprising that the future of English language television programmes in Wales is apparently of so little concern to politicians and others."

Bewteen 2007 and 2011 the number of hours of English language television programmes broadcast by BBC Wales had fallen by 16%, she said.

Ms Richards added: "It's instructive in this regard to compare Wales with Scotland.

"The BBC in Scotland is faced with making similar tough savings but I've always found it curious that the level of interest and engagement there is so much more intense.

"Scottish newspapers and politicians complain, write, criticise and attack the BBC's senior management in London.

Angry

"The BBC's top team would tend to sigh theatrically at what they saw as an excess of emotion in Edinburgh and Glasgow but you'd know that, usually, Scotland would get some concession just to keep them quiet.

"Because a fuss was being kicked up. There was a public debate. Newspapers were agitated. Politicians were angry.

"The BBC centrally needs to hear from politicians, newspaper editors and other opinion-formers that they are worried about the threat to English language services in Wales as well as the dangers facing S4C.

"You can bet they'd be doing so in Scotland."

Ms Richards stepped down as director of BBC Cymru Wales in February after more than 10 years in the post.

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