Thursday, September 25, 2008

Concern over Ofcom Consultation on Public Service Broadcasting

Ofcom have today published their second consultation on Public Service Broadcasting, whose suggestions will undoubtedly lead to concern in Wales.

The consultation says that 91% of respondents to the first consultation found it important that both ITV and BBC continue to produce news coverage. There is a clear need in Wales for a plurality of views, in both English and Welsh, to ensure that there is competition in the media industry.

In 2009, ITV Wales will be reducing its new content from 5 hours 20 mins to 4 hours per week, losing the mid-morning bulletins and weekend lunchtime news. The minimum non-news content will be reduced from 3 hours to 1.5 hours, including 47 minutes of current affairs, with these programmes being screened at prime time. Similar restrictions are being introduced by UTV in Northern Ireland and STV in Scotland.

As noted by Leanne Wood, this reduction will lead to less awareness of Welsh issues and, very probably, fewer jobs in the Welsh media sector. She has started a Facebook group to fight this.

The changes are blamed as the result of pressures on the industry, including a downturn in advertising revenue and greater competition from digital television.

In the longer term, Ofcom are proposing a three-model proposal which would include an English language Public Service Broadcaster for Wales alone, as opposed to Wales and the West of England (as at present).

If these plans were to come to fruition, then I'm sure I would welcome it - especially after the digital switch-over (as a youngster with an antenna facing the Mendips, I was better acquainted with the news from Yeovil and Swindon than Cardiff and Swansea!) when it would be received throughout Wales - but only if it's given the opportunity to produce real Welsh television.

Intriguingly, the consultation also suggests that 'a competitive model would allow for the entry of new Welsh PSB providers."

I'll have to spend a little more time going through the documentation to work out exactly what that is supposed to mean!

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