Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 18:58 UK

Wales is 'invisible nation' on TV

Television screens in a shop window
Most of the terrestrial channels gave evidence to the inquiry

Wales is the "invisible nation" on UK television screens, according to a Wales Broadcasting Committee report.

The assembly report said broadcasters fail to reflect Welsh lives and issues in their programming across the UK.

The committee was asked to look at issues like content, public service broadcasting, and digital switchover.

It recommended more Wales based production from channels and closer links to be developed between Welsh ministers, broadcasters and regulators.

The report rejected calls for powers over broadcasting in Wales to be devolved, arguing that strengthened accountability is the main issue.

Wales is the UK's invisible nation in terms of its place on TV screens
Wales Broadcasting Committee

Established in March of this year, the committee was tasked to look at the future of public service broadcasting in Wales in the English and Welsh languages, assess the impact of the digital switchover and examine the production and availability of programming and digital content from Wales and in Wales.

The document, agreed by a committee of AMs, concluded that: "Wales is the UK's invisible nation in terms of its place on TV screens".

It continued: "No UK network lives up to its boast that it reflects the lives of people throughout the UK.

"Each UK PSB (public service broadcaster) is, in different ways, London-centric and everyday life in Wales is reflected nowhere, in any genre at any time on the schedules".

The report said references to Wales were largely missing across the four main channels, and it added: "Things have to change and it is no longer acceptable and it is no longer sustainable".

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson was criticised for failing to portray Wales

Criticism was directed at Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC and the ITV executive chairman Michael Grade saying they had failed in their duties over portrayal of Wales.

The report recommended that industry regulator Ofcom and the assembly government monitor BBC progress towards ensuring 5% of its UK programmes are made in Wales by 2016.

The committee "requests" ITV to "improve the portrayal of Wales on ITV network services and increase the commissioning of productions from Wales".

It added that Ofcom should require Channel 4, as a public service broadcaster, to achieve a minimum target of 5% of network production from Wales by 2012.

As far as the BBC is concerned, the report said growth in Wales should be not confined to in-house production but be spread throughout the independent sector.

'Top-slicing'

The review welcomed the "honesty" of the King report, which graphically highlighted shortcomings in BBC network news and current affairs coverage of Wales, but recommended that Welsh ministers monitor the BBC management's efforts to put things right.

The report urged industry regulator Ofcom to ensure ITV keeps providing its current level of programmes specifically for audiences in Wales until at least digital switchover is completed in 2012.

It recommended a separate ITV licence for Wales be created, with a looser relationship with the ITV network along similar lines to Ulster and Scottish Television.

The report also supported suggestions the licence fee be 'top-sliced' to fund programmes on commercial channels that would not otherwise be made.

The committee also suggested the 130m a year of licence fee income currently being used to help digital switchover be put into a fund for public service programmes across the UK, with an "appropriate proportion" going to a "mainstream service in Wales, similar to Channel Three's (ITV's) present service for Wales".

Emphasising the importance of appointments and accountability to improve the way Wales is served by broadcasters, the report argued that the assembly government should decide who takes up posts such as the BBC Trustee for Wales and chair of S4C.

It also recommended that BBC Wales' controller should sit on the corporation's executive board.


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