“This is the story I want to focus on this evening.” said Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC in a speech given to Cardiff Business Club on Monday 23rd November. “The BBC as a home for distinctive quality and creativity, supporting the best talent and brightest ambition – a driving force behind the UK’s extraordinary global competitiveness in the creative industries.”
How big is ‘small’ in terms of a nation? And to what extent should size determine the value of a culture? Or should cultural value be kept separate from political clout? These questions matter increasingly in many arenas but on 16th November I spent a day at the first of three University of South Wales workshops with people who address them in terms of tv. It was fascinating and inspiring.
I loved the trailer we were shown by the producer of Norskov, a new Nordic detective story set in a fictional regional town in Denmark. A cheerful character addresses a huge, jovial crowd:
“Some people say Norskov’s out on the edge. I guess they don’t know the world’s round!”
Roars of approval.
The centre is where you are, is the message. Because you matter. Your culture. Your place. Your language. You are the hub of the universe. Continue reading Television from Small Nations – Internationalisation
The BBC Trust held a seminar in Cardiff ‘as part of the Charter review process’ on 20th October. It was open to the public but the majority of those present were media workers, academics or correspondents. The Western Mail report on it is accurate but conveys nothing of the atmosphere among the attendees which was, at times, mutinous and, finally, outspokenly critical. These sore spots have to be examined or they will go on festering to no good purpose.
British, Bold, Creative: a catchy, punchy title for the BBC’s statement of its plans for the next decade and beyond but, read from the point of view of the Welsh bit of ‘British’, the contents are something of a curate’s egg.
One sees the effort to engage with the Nations and Regions. There are suggestions about reconfiguring the delivery of news and about opening up platforms for a wider sharing of materials. The aspirations are right, as in section 7.3 Entertaining the whole UK:
Firstly, we will improve how we portray and represent the different Nations of the UK on our pan-UK network services. Secondly, we will strengthen the services for each Nation.
Then comes a very big ‘but’:
But significant new investment in a broader range of programming, such as drama, comedy and entertainment, cannot be delivered within the current Budget agreement with the Government… funding these ambitions would require additional income. Continue reading British, Bold, Creative – for all of us in Wales?
I don’t know if anyone ever addresses Lord Hall of Birkenhead, Director General of the BBC, as ‘butt’. I suppose I’m unlikely to find out as he probably has more pressing questions to answer in these days of Charter Renewal debate. Nonetheless the question came to me as I reflected on a blog I wrote yesterday attempting to unpack what Tony Hall meant when he used the word ‘culture’ in a speech in Cardiff in 2014.
there are some aspects of national life in Wales that are not sufficiently captured by the BBC’s own television services in Wales, and I would include comedy, entertainment and culture in those categories
I don’t want to treat that speech as some gospel to be mined for esoteric meanings and yet light did dawn, and the clue was an in example of one of the genres whose erosion he lamented in that text. He named comedy, entertainment and culture as genres whose production has been eroded, in the last decade, on English language television in Wales. I found myself thinking about a comedy series which, in my view, is one of the best BBC Wales has ever made. Continue reading Scampi and the Meaning of Life – TV and Culture in Wales
If a thing is repeated often enough it begins to be as persuasive as though it were true.
We’ve never had it so good, apparently. We live in a televisual Age of Plenty with digital wares piled high in the marketplace and so it’s time for the BBC to withdraw from universality and to stop disadvantaging the commercial sector by its scale and success; the level of public funding gives the BBC an unfair advantage over its competitors and the BBC should become more ‘distinctive’, confining itself to things the market can’t or won’t provide.
From the many strands in the Government Green Paper on BBC Charter Renewal I’d like to tease out two. A failure to convince the UK that these strands are vital parts of the broadcasting web, and not mere loose ends, will cost us dear in Wales.
It’s not just S4C that is threatened by potential changes. It is television for Wales as a whole, if the latest BBC Wales Annual Review 2014-15 by Audience Council Wales is anything to go by.
This Review, for 2014 – 15, makes alarming reading, particularly as it comes hot on the heels of Ofcom’s recent special additional report on PSB in the internet age: The Nations of the UK and their regions and the bombshell about funding burdens for the BBC lobbed by the Chancellor while no one was looking. It appears the day before the Green Paper on BBC Charter Renewal is expected but it shouldn’t get lost in the sturm und drang that that is likely to produce because it has significant things to say about television in Wales. Continue reading TV for Wales – in both languages
This blog appeared on 10th July 2015 on the IWA’s clickonwales blog site.
For the second time in five years Government Ministers have backed the BBC into a corner, issued a ‘money or your life’ threat, walked away with a big chunk of the licence fee and left a Director General making as good a public fist of defending ‘the deal’ as he can. Has this been a fair trade between a willing buyer and a willing seller? Continue reading BBC licence fee raid ̶̶ The consequences for Wales
See IWA Click on Wales blog page 9th March
When Stephen Crabb, the Secretary of State for Wales, stood up on 27 February to proclaim a (fragile) cross-party consensus on further powers for Wales, he did so only hours after Ofcom, the media regulator, had closed its consultation on the future of public service broadcasting. Ofcom’s review and the Crabb ‘consensus’ represent potentially important milestones for broadcasting in Wales.
What the premature St. David’s Day agreement (a Sunday announcement was never on the cards) had to say about broadcasting, unsurprisingly, made no headlines, but it laid down an important marker for the coming debate on the BBC’s Charter and for the need to deepen Welsh involvement in media policy. There is a huge amount at stake both for viewers and for our television production industry.
Apparently, all four parties are now agreed on proposals that the IWA has supported and promoted for some years past in various publications, and in the evidence that it submitted to the Silk Commission by the UK’s Changing Union project in which it has been an active partner. It did so again last week in its response to Ofcom’s consultation document.
Mr. Crabb’s Command Paper says there was consensus around the following Silk Commission proposals: Continue reading Crabb Deal on Broadcasting in Wales is not secure yet