Cardiff Media Summit – Top, Tail and Follow-ups

Cardiff Media Summit 29 March 2017

My Intro and Conclusion plus Follow-ups. More on http://www.iwa.wales/click/

This Media Summit is being held on the day when Article 50 is triggered. Aimed at taking this country out of the EU, this will alter fundamentally the framework within which the UK is governed.

The referendum, like the election of Trump in the United States, raised major concerns about the quality of information put before the public, by both politicians and media. ‘fake news’ and ‘post-fact politics’. The founder of the internet, Tim Berners Lee, has gone public on his deep concerns at the capacity of big data companies to distort the democratic process.

These huge issues impact on us here in Wales. The media scenario is constantly developing and it’s going to get more complicated – which is one reason why the Institute of Welsh Affairs maintains a very necessary focus on media issues in Wales.  The Audience, Viewers and Service Users are our prime concern.

The media help us know ourselves and others. They join the dots for our society – from education to transport, health to business – and they provide the underpinnings of a vibrant political culture and civil society.

Yet, at a time when Wales as a democratic entity has never been more clearly defined, the sources of reliable information for debate and for scrutiny of our Government, culture and identity are drying up. This challenge to our democracy must be taken seriously. It deserves – it needs − first-rate media policy.

Good policy is the wise course of action that will deliver a desired aim. It requires comprehensive information along with reliable analysis.

To these ends, the IWA’s Media Policy Group carried out significant Wales Media Audits in 2008 and 2015, covering broadcasting, press and online. The 2015 Audit included an important review of media policy and a set of policy recommendations arising from the data. The Audit has become an influential, much-quoted resource and its 31 recommendations have spotlighted these six key facts:

Wales – Media

  • availability of communications better but range of content much narrower
  • BBC & ITV output & spend on English language tv down, programme range narrower
  • S4C – first ever funding cut
  • ownership of commercial radio consolidating – severe drop in locally originated output
  • print circulations of Welsh newspapers falling; monetising online usage a challenge.
  • digital platforms increased access to news, but forensic capacity of journalism down

In a situation that requires investment and coherence, overall the Audit showed that Wales was seeing market failure writ large.

And since then? I’m pleased to say that, on the back of our Audits, the IWA’s Media Policy Group has managed to engineer a degree of pressure on the authorities not seen since the days of the agitation for a Welsh language channel – less spectacular than those campaigns but, nonetheless, insistent in its pursuit of the argument.

In the last 15 months, we’ve been through the BBC Charter Renewal debate and emerged into the ‘sunny uplands’, well, ‘cloudy with sunny intervals’ uplands, of an 8.5 million pound budgetary uplift. This is not the £30 million that we, and the Welsh Government, had reckoned as the cost of a comprehensive service from BBC Wales.

But there are gains and the issue of how Wales is portrayed has risen up the BBC’s agenda, with portrayal objectives now set across the genres.

We still await the DCMS review of S4C, which, in our view, ought to be done with the totality of Welsh language media in mind and not be the scrutiny, or salvation, of one institution in isolation.

In the meantime, a National Assembly Committee is carrying out its own S4C review, and Westminster’s Welsh Affairs Committee is following-up its Broadcasting Review with a focus on S4C and its funding.

These have been useful gains, but some of the challenges we face are:

Wales – Media Challenges

  • delivering portrayal
  • extending presence of Welsh issues in radio
  • implications if indie production moves to 2 main owners– a broadcaster & private capital
  • consultation process on Ofcom’s proposal for BBC Operating Licence
  • effective NEDs for BBC Wales
  • sustaining plurality of professional journalism at local & Wales level
  • Wales in network news
  • Coherent, holistic Welsh-language service

To meet these challenges good policy is needed. Yet, media policy in Wales is a reserved matter under the direct control of the UK government. It is essential, therefore, that the Welsh Government should act to the full extent of its capacity in this area, to ensure that the UK government recognises the particular media needs of Wales.

Last June the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language announced the establishment of a new independent media forum for Wales but nothing further has been heard. Independent, expert, long-term capacity is essential to meet the many challenges. There should also be greater transparency from government advisory bodies.

A welcome development has been the Assembly’s increasing engagement with media.

We applaud the creation, in this Assembly, of a committee bringing together Culture, Welsh Language and Communications, and this Committee’s scrutiny of the media.

Any healthy democratic society needs the information and challenge that only well-resourced, professional and accessible media can provide. The presentations and discussion during this IWA Summit will help shape our ideas – in order to deal with what is, most certainly, unfinished business.

*****

The day began with a ‘big picture’ presentation of the context of Welsh media by Claire Enders of Enders Analysis which offered an immensely useful wake-up call. It was realistic and stimulating. A great start to a programme with the stress on next steps.  Sessions on Workforce: Sustainability, Diversity and Training; Future of Journalism in Wales; Future of Welsh-language Media and an interview with BBC Director of Content, Charlotte Moore.

*****

Summing up the day, Ian Hargreaves was encouraged by the ‘positive and constructive atmosphere’ of discussions through the day.

Digital overtake was felt to be irreversible. ‘The traditional media we’ve focused on today is not where the story is’, he concluded, and recommended that internet platforms be better represented at future events.

Angela Graham, concluded by pointing to the number of calls from delegates and speakers for collaboration and joined up thinking. She felt there was great potential for joint tackling of key issues, including:

  • BBC​: The Role of the Ofcom Wales Advisory Committee and of the remit and membership of the BBC Nations’ Committees , as yet unresolved.
  • S4C Review​: The remit should cover all media and be about much more than mere defence of the institution; should it be incremental or radical?
  • Workforce​: Fill the gap left by the withdrawal of Skillset and the end of Cyfle; collaboration essential between Welsh Government, universities, education and broadcasters et al to rebuild the weakened skills infrastructure of Wales; role of Creative Wales in this? And can we in Wales  ‘do it ourselves’? Is it a gap that Industry and Education can take the initiative to fill?
  • Independent Production​: Implications of BBC Studios; ITV Studios; and the Sale of Tinopolis
  • Journalism​: Facebook/Google: Regulation Issues; Development of local publicly-funded journalism; enabling a more forensic, penetrating journalism in Wales.

A series of 11 BLOGS on the media in Wales which ran between 20 – 29 March 2017, ahead of the 3rd IWA Cardiff Media Summit, can be found here ​.

Podcasts of all the sessions at the Summit can be found:

IWA Podcasts

Storify  #IWAMedia17

Post-summit blog by Clare Hudson:

Around the Welsh media in five sessions

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