Wales politics

Improve how Wales is portrayed on television, say MPs

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Media captionMake more programmes about Wales as well as in Wales, says MP David Davies

The way Wales is depicted on TV, both to Welsh audiences and the rest of the UK, must be improved, MPs have said in a report.

The Welsh Affairs Committee urged the BBC to give English language TV programming for Wales a cash boost.

Committee chairman David Davies said MPs also had ongoing funding concerns for Welsh language TV channel S4C.

The BBC said it had announced plans that would address the politicians' concerns.

On Wednesday, it emerged that more than two thirds of AMs had signed a letter to BBC Director General Lord Hall demanding he "be specific" about how much extra money he intended to give to BBC Wales.

Lord Hall, in a letter to First Minister Carwyn Jones in May, said the BBC planned to "allocate additional funding" across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, after admitting in 2014 that English language television programming in Wales had been "eroded".

The committee's report, published on Thursday, said extra funding should take into account the fact that Wales has a more limited choice of media and that the BBC therefore has a greater role to play.

"We recommend that the BBC allocates investment from its current budget for English language programming in Wales closer to the levels seen in 2006-07," the report said.

On the portrayal of Wales to the nation on television, the report said that a decline in "specific media provision for Welsh audiences" caused "insufficient scrutiny of decisions affecting Wales" by Welsh and UK ministers and this may also contribute to an "ill-informed population".

"Moreover, given the high value that Welsh audiences place on seeing themselves and Welsh life on screen, the current service and any prospect of further decline, particularly in non-news programming, is concerning," the report continued.

Mr Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, said the committee was worried by how "Wales is depicted on TV, or rather the lack of depiction of Wales" to the rest of the UK.

"There is good news that television is being made in Wales - that's obviously a very good thing - but often it's TV which is not actually about Wales, or set in Wales," he said.

The report welcomes a UK Government decision in February to reverse the first year of proposed cuts to the money it gives S4C, and the "comprehensive review" of the channel's remit, governance and funding announced by ministers at the time.

But the MPs called for an "independent review" of S4C "as a matter of urgency" and for the channel to be reviewed in future "on a regular basis" to avoid "financial uncertainty and ensure it is fulfilling its public service remit".

Image caption Crime drama Y Gwyll is one of S4C's most praised programmes, also made in English for the BBC as Hinterland

The BBC said in a statement that it had "transformed how much network content we make in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland" but it accepted "those programmes have not done enough to reflect each nation to itself, and to the rest of the country".

"Last month we set out plans to better reflect the full diversity of the UK's cultures and communities on screen and on air, including spending more on English language television programming in Wales and having a commissioning editor responsible for television drama in Wales," it said.

S4C chairman Huw Jones said the committee's report "stresses the importance of S4C's independence and of ensuring sufficient funding for the channel in order for it to continue to deliver a high quality service".

"The report's conclusions are timely and will be an important contribution to the review of S4C when that takes place in due course," he said.


Analysis by Huw Thomas, BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

For two years the discussion around the future of the BBC in Wales has focused on how much it spends, and how Welsh lives are portrayed on screen.

The committee has tapped into the mood music that has seen something of a cross-party consensus develop around increasing budgets for English language programming, and maximising the portrayal of Welsh communities on network TV.

But there is little clarity from the BBC on how far it is prepared to go, though some answers may be offered in the coming weeks, if not months.

Some of the committee's concerns have already been addressed.

The UK government's white paper on the renewal of the BBC's royal charter recommends keeping a Welsh voice on the BBC's new unitary board.

There will also be a review of S4C next year, which may address some of the uncertainty about the Welsh language channel's future that this committee, and other campaigners, have highlighted.

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