BBC urged to increase National Broadcast Archive for Wales funding

BBC archive tapes
Image caption Lottery funding of £5m has been agreed in principle for the project

The BBC should commit more to the running costs of a new National Broadcast Archive for Wales, the deputy minister for culture has said.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas has refused to commit funding for the project at the National Library of Wales because of fears over its long-term sustainability.

He told the assembly's culture committee the BBC needed to increase its financial support for the plans in order to proceed.

BBC Wales said: "We remain committed to working collaboratively and positively with all partners on this proposal".

The National Library in Aberystwyth plans to create a £9m National Broadcast Archive to house 160,000 recordings transferred from the BBC Cymru Wales headquarters in Llandaff, Cardiff.

Image caption Digitised content would be viewable by the public in Aberystwyth and three hubs around Wales

What is the National Broadcast Archive?

  • It aims to be a "chronicle of the life of the nation" and "Wales' national memory"
  • The BBC has been broadcasting in Wales since 1923 and it has 95,000 audio tapes, 64,000 video tapes - being digitised - and thousands of cans of film
  • It would join the ITV, S4C and screen and sound archives collected at Aberystwyth
  • Digitised content would be available to view by the public and researchers at the National Library but also at new hubs in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Wrexham.

In November 2018, it emerged that the Welsh Government would not commit £1m towards the project over fears the new archive could put the library at risk over the longer term.

The project needs government support in order to secure £5m of lottery funding.

From 2024, the BBC will provide £20,000 a year for three years towards the maintenance of the archive, as well as in-kind support to resolve rights issues which it values at £40,000.

Image caption Lord Elis-Thomas said he had to protect public money

But Lord Elis-Thomas said there was a "principle" at stake in asking for £1m from the government since the BBC had "used its own resources" to build an archive storage facility in England.

"It raises a point of principle as to what extent it's appropriate for the restricted funds of the Welsh block grant for devolved services to be used in this situation," he said.

He added it was his job to "protect public money and use it appropriately", and he expected the BBC to increase its funding for the project.

In written evidence to the committee, the Welsh Government said it had concerns about how the library would meet the annual running costs of the new archive, which it said would be £256,000 a year from 2024.

The library is also projected to be operating with a budget deficit of £986,000 from 2024.

The government said discussions with the library and the BBC were continuing.

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