Thursday, 10 November 2011
“While I understand BBC management here in Wales are operating within tough financial constraints, the information I have heard about the proposed cuts to political programming and how that will affect coverage of events that take place in Wales’ principal democratic institution are of particular concern. So I ask this question here today, will Welsh democracy be inevitably damaged if, as appears to be the case, programming dedicated to the coverage of the work we do here, in the building, is scrapped and not directly replaced. It’s a question I propose to take up with the BBC Trust.” So said Rosemary Butler, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly to BBC Wales/Cymru management.
She was raising the issue of lack of political coverage in Wales generally and in particular the latest cuts that the BBC are proposing under the Delivering Quality First initiative. Cuts are going to happen that’s for sure. But the Presiding Officer raises a very important issue the nature of the reporting of the Assembly.
Now political programmes are not top of most peoples viewing musts. But in a democracy the need for information is important and politicians need to be held to account.
Now devolution has passed considerable powers down to Wales.
Education, Health, planning, Housing, Agriculture and many other areas are now with the Assembly. In these areas the Westminster government is irrelevant. Yet, the coverage of Westminster by our broadcasting organisations continues as if nothing much has changed.
The main focus of news broadcasting is centred on the Palace of Westminster. Rarely is there an item from one of the devolved administrations.
And what’s more the specialized political programmes are also Westminster centric. Rarely is there a politician featured that is not from the UK parliament.
OK, there are a lot more people living in England than Wales and broadcasters will try to maximise their audience so UK political programmes understandably will concentrate on English issues and English politicians. But where does that leave Wales?
It leaves a big information hole. A gap that needs filling not by cutting back the provision but expanding it.
More political programmes need to be made and transmitted in Wales if our democracy is to grow. Now is the time to deliver quality not by cutting back on political programming but by growing it.