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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Relying on the BBC

The conclusions of the Professor Anthony King review of the BBC's network news coverage was no surprise to those of us who live in Wales. He reported that the BBC's news and current affairs coverage did not reflect the transformation that has taken place in Welsh politics and national life:

Researchers from Cardiff University identified 136 stories on the BBC pan-UK network that dealt with education and health – all 136 dealt with England alone. None dealt with education or health in one of the devolved nations.

The Cardiff University research found that for every one story located in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales there are around eight from England – excluding coverage of Westminster and Downing Street.

Its analysis of four weeks of reporting found that 19% of stories involving devolution were vague and confusing, and sometimes inaccurate.

Prof King’s assessment describes as “striking” the BBC’s failure to report Welsh stories on UK-wide news.

He states: “Almost none of the BBC’s 2007 election coverage dealt with Wales in any way, and of 37 BBC stories that dealt with devolved matters during the four October to November weeks analysed by the Cardiff team, only one related to Wales.

“That story related to the potential banning in Wales of the use of electric dog collars.”

Just 2% of stories on BBC television news were based in Wales. Welsh stories accounted for just 1.9% of radio items and 0.7% on online articles.

The irony is that the BBC still produces a quality news service, it is just that it is lazy in the way that the current devolution settlement is accounted for. The worst example was the recent Question Time, filmed in Cardiff in which the presenter cut short a discussion that involved the Welsh Assembly on the grounds that it might confuse viewers in England.

I wrote to Mark Thomson, the Director General to complain about this edition of Question Time and had a fairly self-serving response back trying to justify the insult. I have written back but Mr. Thomson may find it less easy to get away with such unacceptable behaviour on the part of his broadcasters when he appears before the Assembly's Broadcasting Committee on Monday.
The BBC ignores its main role - to act as a servant to the people. The BBC should loose its monopoly on the TV licence fee.
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