BBC bosses defend Wales and Scotland spending differences

Rhodri Talfan and Lord Tony Hall
Image caption BBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies and BBC director general Lord Tony Hall gave evidence

BBC bosses have defended differences in spending between Wales and Scotland.

Director General Lord Hall was among senior managers giving evidence to the assembly's culture committee.

The BBC's new charter includes an extra £8.5m for BBC Wales programming, while BBC Scotland will get a new TV channel with £19m new investment and a £30m total annual budget.

Lord Hall said the BBC had considered the "very different needs of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland."

He added that BBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies had conducted "extensive research" and had found a lack of appetite for a so-called Welsh Six news programme that would encompass world, UK and Welsh news.

Lord Hall said: "We did see issues around the reach of our services, particularly the changes we have made to the availability of Radio Wales fits into that.

"We also wanted to ensure that we were building up the English language programming on BBC One Wales.

"That seemed to me, and to Rhodri, the right answer to the Welsh issue which is: how we can do more in the English language to the whole of Wales? And BBC One Wales, because it is doing so well, seems the best route to that, rather than going down the route of a new channel as we have done in Scotland."

Image caption The set of Casualty, which is made at BBC Wales in Roath Lock

Labour AM Lee Waters said the BBC had created "a beast you are going to have to feed" by introducing a new channel in Scotland, which "will forever put us at a disadvantage in terms of investment."

Lord Hall rejected the claim, and added later that extra funding for the BBC's national services came at a time of cuts in other areas of the broadcaster's operations.

"The additional investment we have made in Wales, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are the only additional commitments we have made through our savings programme to more funding.

"As you know, the BBC overall has a flat funding settlement for the next five years. These are, so far, the only commitments we have made and that's because I believe very strongly in what we are trying to do in the nations and regions."

Image caption There were geographical and technical issues to providing opt-out news

Asked about a previous commitment to consider introducing opt-out news bulletins for Wales on Radio 1 and Radio 2, Lord Hall said technology was proving a "block" to the plans as FM transmitters overlapped national borders.

"We have got an issue here - it's really difficult, if we could achieve it I would like to achieve it. We have run up against technical issues.

"There's no way of breaking the FM transmission so that you give Bristol and the Somerset zone what they want, and what we would like to deliver to Cardiff and the zone around Cardiff. We can't find a way around it. We want to find a way around it - this is not about money or policy, we are trying to find a way around it."

BBC Cymru Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies said changing FM transmitters in Wales could impact the radio services of around a million listeners in England.

He said: "It's a huge problem, and it's a problem of geography. We know that around 60% of the population of Wales lives within around 40 miles of Cardiff. And if the frequencies (from transmitters in Wales) cannot be prevented from reaching south west England, there are around a million listeners in the Bristol area who are dependent on the frequencies that come from Wales."

"That's not a matter of building new transmitters. The problem is that additional FM spectrum is not available."

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