Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 15:01 UK

Study urges stand-alone ITV Wales

Televisions in a shop window
The study said the future of English language television was a key issue

ITV Wales could become a stand-alone third channel separate from the ITV network, says a report commissioned by assembly government ministers.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs idea came as ITV said it could not guarantee the future of Wales-focused programmes.

The report said Wales had the weakest print and commercial radio, compared to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But it was the only one with a third public broadcaster, S4C, and had the strongest production sector.

The report's author told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme that the industry regulator Ofcom should carry out a feasibility study on the idea of separating ITV Wales from the ITV network.

Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas would not comment on the specific idea but has previously said he would look at all options as the assembly government comes up with its own view.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) audit, which examined newspapers, television, radio and online provision, found the media deficiencies in Wales were significantly worse than in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

News stand
Each day only 100,000 readers in Scotland read newspapers with almost no Scottish content, whereas in Wales 1,760,000 are reading papers with virtually no Welsh content
Institute of Welsh Affairs report

It said Wales was the only country where none of its commercial radio stations was owned locally and was the only one of the three countries whose ITV franchise-holder was absorbed into ITV plc.

The report also said the BBC was the most dominant in both radio and television in Wales compared to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The research was carried out by Geraint Talfan Davies, a former controller of BBC Wales and chair of the IWA, and IWA research officer Nick Morris.

They said: "Perhaps the most startling fact of all to emerge from our researches is that each day only 100,000 readers in Scotland read newspapers with almost no Scottish content, whereas in Wales 1,760,000 are reading papers with virtually no Welsh content.

"It seems to us impossible to argue that those figures do not have serious consequences for informed democracy in Wales."

The report said English-language television was a key issue for coming years.

It said the autonomy and guaranteed funding of S4C were "the visible parameters of the Welsh language settlement" while English language programming by both BBC Wales and ITV Wales was "decided by internal processes within wider organisations".

The report authors suggested the creation of a Welsh public broadcasting agency as an alternative to making ITV Wales autonomous.

Last week, Welsh-language publishers Golwg secured 600,000 from the assembly government earmarked for developing the Welsh language press.

The money, to be paid over three years, was announced in February by the heritage minister to support an assembly government promise to expand the Welsh language printed press.

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