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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 20:35 GMT
'Great opportunity' for BBC Wales
Billie Piper and David Tennant in Doctor Who
Dr Who, produced by BBC Wales, has been a huge hit
BBC Wales controller Menna Richards has welcomed the UK government's commitment to a strong and independent BBC.

She said BBC Wales was well placed to take advantage of the emphasis on the UK's nations and regions outlined in a White Paper published on Tuesday.

National governor Merfyn Jones said the duty to connect all Britain's nations and regions was "a great opportunity".

The White Paper sets out the future functions, role and structure of the BBC.

It paves the way for the renewal of the BBC's Royal Charter, which expires this year.

The specific new duty on the BBC to connect all the nations and regions of Britain is particularly welcome
BBC Wales national governor Merfyn Jones
In addition to the BBC's traditional aims to "inform, educate and entertain", the corporation is set six new purposes. Among these is "reflecting the identity of the UK's nations, regions and communities".

The White Paper also confirms plans to create a BBC Trust in place of the current system of governors, which Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said would become "the licence fee payer's voice".

The BBC Trust will "include members dedicated to the interests of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".

The White Paper also said the BBC should provide network programming that "reflects, in a balanced and accurate way, the activities and cultures of the diverse range of different communities within the UK".

Bruce Parry in Tribe
Bruce Parry visited remote peoples in BBC Wales' Tribe
It meant the BBC would "provide a larger amount of dedicated programming in and for each of the devolved nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales); to include provision in indigenous minority languages across a range of platforms - the internet has particular value in supporting these languages".

The White Paper also looks at the relationship between the BBC and S4C. The BBC supplies 10 hours a week programming for S4C, and all the Welsh language channel's news.

'Stabilising and strengthening'

The document said the government was committed to a "sustainable future for Welsh language television broadcasting; S4C's relationship with the BBC will be important in stabilising and strengthening its position over the coming years."

The White Paper said there would need to be further consideration of the details of any new settlement between the BBC and S4C, including the level of the BBC's contribution.

Also to be examined is how that "should be expressed in monetary terms as well as in hours of programming; how best to ensure its value is maintained over time and where responsibility should rest for decisions on content".

The government said it was important that the settlement provided "greater clarity to S4C about the levels of funding involved, together with control over the commissioning of the programmes to be provided and how the budget is used, but consistent with the BBC's editorial values and obligations to the licence fee payer."

BBC Wales
The relationship between the BBC and S4C is also examined
The White Paper also confirmed that all TV services in Wales would be switched to digital by the second half of 2009, when traditional analogue signals would no longer work.

In welcoming the emphasis on Wales and the other UK nations and regions, Menna Richards said BBC Wales was particularly well placed to take advantage given the successes of series such as Dr Who and Tribe along with BBC Wales' commitment to local television.

On the future relationship between the BBC and S4C, Ms Richards said the two organisations had been "working together for some considerable time" to create a new strategic partnership.

Clarity of funding

She said many of the things that the White Paper referred to specifically, for example clarity of funding, had already been agreed in discussions with S4C.

Ms Richards said both organisations had the common aim of working together to ensure the "best possible output for Welsh audiences".

Mr Jones, who is also chairman of the Broadcasting Council For Wales, said: "I very much welcome the publication of the White Paper.

"The structural changes the government proposes will help to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the BBC in today's more challenging broadcasting environment.

"The specific new duty on the BBC to connect all the nations and regions of Britain is particularly welcome and is a great opportunity for BBC Wales, building on our recent and continuing successes making programmes for Wales and network."

S4C said it welcomed the government's commitment to a sustainable future for broadcasting in Welsh and appreciated its support for the relationship between it and the BBC.

The Welsh fourth channel said it and the BBC were currently discussing the details of a new partnership encompassing financial and editorial aspects.

Welsh Culture Minister Alun Pugh said he was pleased issues raised by the assembly government had been taken into account, including a Welsh member of the BBC Trust.

Mr Pugh said the importance of Welsh language broadcasting had been acknowledged and urged the BBC and S4C to "work closely together to help us to deliver our vision of a bilingual Wales."


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