'Devolve control of TV and radio', says Plaid leader

Image caption, Ieuan Wyn Jones says the broadcasting industry is worth around £300m a year in Wales

Control over television and radio in Wales should be devolved, Plaid Cymru's leader says.

Ieuan Wyn Jones argues that the assembly government should have power over the BBC, S4C and commercial stations to ensure the future of broadcasting in Wales.

He said a fall in English-language output in Wales and proposed cuts was threatening the £300m a year industry.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones has said the issue should be discussed.

Ahead of a speech at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale, the Plaid leader told BBC Radio Wales there were "compelling economic, cultural and democratic reasons" for transferring control over TV and radio to Wales in the next assembly government term.

He has pledged that he will put the devolution of broadcasting at the heart of his party's manifesto ahead of next year's assembly election.

He said: "We have to make sure the services that are provided through the BBC in Wales, through ITV in Wales and S4C, serve the audience in a very competitive era.

"The problem is we have no democratic accountability for that in Wales. All the key decisions are made outside of Wales."

Mr Jones, who is also the deputy first minister and minister for economy and transport, said that broadcasting in Wales was "under attack from the UK government", with broadcasters "failing to provide an adequate service for Welsh audiences".

He told the eisteddfod that Welsh-made output had fallen from 824 hours to 696 on BBC Wales.

He added: "More worryingly, news and current affairs output has fallen from 500 to 420 [hours].

"On top of this, BBC spending on English-language programmes in Wales fell from £26.8m to £23.6m between 2005 and 2009 - at a time when the licence fee increased."

He said that the situation at ITV Wales was "even worse", with programming, excluding news and current affairs, reduced from 169 hours a year in 2005 to 35 hours now.

Mr Jones used his speech to highlight the need to create an appropriate financial settlement for broadcasting services, which would include a reform of the Barnett formula - the system used to allocate money to Wales.

He said devolution of broadcasting would have to come with a new financial settlement from Westminster.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "We feel confident we would be able to fund services."

He also argued

  • that the assembly government should be given the powers to set the budget of the Welsh-language broadcaster S4C
  • the assembly government should control the distribution of FM radio frequencies in Wales
  • the assembly government should ensure that new digital stations such as Radio Wales and Radio Cymru are available throughout the country

He said he recognised the fear that such sweeping changes to broadcasting in Wales would give rise to fears the industry would become politicised.

"I am guarding against that. There is no way politicians should be telling broadcasters how to do programmes or what the contents should be."

His speech came a day after the heritage minister said S4C should develop a closer relationship with the assembly government.

Alun Ffred Jones said he was not in favour of "devolving S4C on its own" but added: "I think you have to look at the whole issue of broadcasting and then I think there is a discussion to be had around that."

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.