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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
BBC Wales to expand business coverage
BBC Wales Contrroller Menna Richards
Menna Richards promised expanded coverage of business
A more prominent role for business coverage has been promised at BBC Wales's first online business conference in Cardiff.

BBC Wales Controller Menna Richards told an audience of business people that BBC Wales was planning to develop and expand the coverage on offer across all media - online, TV and radio.

Full text of Menna Richards' speech

Good morning. Bore da a chroeso i chi i gyd a diolch i chi am ddod i'r gynhadledd bwysig hon gan BBC Cymru.

Thank you for coming today and being part of this important initiative by BBC Wales.

The BBC as a whole is committed to giving business coverage a more prominent role in our output.

Our new Director- General, Greg Dyke, who has enjoyed a very successful business career, has marked out the BBC's coverage of business as one of the main areas for development.

He identified a major weakness in the reluctance of BBC journalism to engage with the changing face of business, as opposed to the traditional agenda of factory closure, job creation or job losses, and fat cat bosses.

Here at BBC Wales we recognize that we too need to develop and expand the way in which we cover business.


The development of a modern and vibrant economy in Wales is more important than ever - and the BBC wishes to play its part in developing an understanding of the importance of business and the relevance of business skills.

We are grateful that so many of you have taken the time to spend the day with us looking at the future of Welsh business and the way BBC Wales reports it.

Wales has a reputation for not having an entrepreneurial culture.

Whilst the Welsh economy has been dominated by the industries of steel, coal and agriculture over the past two hundred years, that has had to change through the last two decades as old economic and social certainties have been blown away by economic change.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are now the major employers in the Welsh economy. 60% of us are now in employed in SMEs.

The creative industries, of which BBC Wales is a hugely significant part with over a thousand staff, are increasingly important too since Cardiff is the largest centre of media activity outside London.

But of course the Welsh economy has been transformed over the last twenty years.

It is still true that we lag behind many other parts of the UK. In 1998 Welsh GDP was just under 80% of the figure for England.

And in terms of the UK's regional competitiveness, Wales gets a rating of 90.7, where the UK as a whole is rated as 100.


It is clear that there is already a renewed interest in the development of a business culture

And the basic skills we need to develop ourselves for the world of work - literacy and numeracy - lag behind most of the UK.

The development of a modern and vibrant economy in Wales is more important than ever - and the BBC wishes to play its part in developing an understanding of the importance of business and the relevance of business skills.

The official agencies recognise that an entrepreneurial culture is the key to developing business in Wales.

The WDA's entrepreneurship action plan has been established to help develop a dynamic and successful economy.

One of our focus groups this afternoon will be examining the proposition whether entrepreneurs can be cool - I think we'll all be interested in their conclusions.

It is clear that there is already a renewed interest in the development of a business culture.

Interest in entrepreneurship is now flourishing. In a poll of 16 to 24 year olds carried out by the BBC's Essentials Website recently, half said they wanted to start their own business in the future -and many of those had ambitions to go solo within two years.

Twenty six thousand people now take Business Studies A level - twice as many as just seven years ago.

And there are more people than ever taking MBAs - this year 9,000 MBA students will graduate in the UK - compared to only 2,000 in 1985.

Wales is part of this business revolution and we have to reflect it in our coverage.

Of course, the definition of business programming is also crucial, and it's a key theme for today's conference.

It is estimated that between 16 and 20% of Welsh adults hold shares of some sort in PEPS, pensions and private holdings.

The huge growth of personal pensions and investment, and share holdings has meant that there has been a significant increase in the number of people with a direct financial interest in business prosperity - and an even bigger increase in people who want to understand what is going on - and why.


Wales is part of this business revolution and we have to reflect it in our coverage.

The message is that business affects us all directly and it is the job of the broadcaster to engage with that.

If business in the UK over the past 20 years has been subject to wave after wave of change - recessions, privatisation, de-regulation, globalisation, consolidation and of course massive technological change - it's hardly surprising that the BBC's business journalism and programming has changed in that time too.

I am glad to welcome Daniel Dodd, the BBC's Business and Economics Editor, who has led some of the changes to the BBC's coverage of business over the last year, of which we will hear more later this morning.

It would be fair to say that business programmes in the past have had the reputation of being boring and elitist.

It is changing, with programmes like Back to the Floor and Trouble at the Top on BBC2 bringing a new sense of excitement and engagement to a wider audience.

They bring alive the world of business - showing the blood and guts of companies - and the emotional drama of dealing with things that sound desiccated but aren't - things like cash flow, debt charges or dealing with overseas markets.

And here at BBC Wales we have made significant progress in developing our business coverage.

Our business correspondents on news programmes are determined to portray business in a new and accessible way and we've introduced a new programme on Radio Wales called Firmed Up which tells the human stories of business, people and profits.

Our education department is currently producing a series which will offer modules to budding entrepreneurs on how to develop their business skills.

It will also become part of an integrated training package which will be available online.

We are committed to developing and improving our coverage on Radio and Television - and we went your help and assistance to make sure that we tell the right stories and tell them well.

As I said at the start - this is one of the first steps on the road to taking our business coverage into the future.

We are determined to get the message across that we are committed to in depth and accessible coverage of Welsh business, and the impact it has on all our lives.

Our aim is that this will be a true partnership between you, us, and the viewers and listeners.

A partnership in which we can all be shareholders.

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