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Spend by BBC on TV in Wales ‘far short of what is spent in Scotland’

25 Mar 2024 5 minute read
The BBC Wales Headquarters building

Martin Shipton

The BBC’s spend on TV content in Wales falls woefully short of the amount spent in Scotland and must grow year-on-year until it reaches parity, according to a Senedd report.

The Senedd’s Culture Committee has set out a list of recommendations in its report for improvements to TV services.

Committee chair Delyth Jewell, the Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales East, said: “It is clear that Wales is not getting a fair deal from our broadcasters. BBC, ITV and S4C are required to serve Welsh viewers and licence fee payers in different ways, but it is obvious that they are not fully achieving what is expected at the moment.

“It cannot be right that the BBC is spending double the amount on English-language content in Scotland than it is in Wales – Welsh licence fee payers deserve better – we’re calling for a year-on-year increase in spending until we have parity with Scotland.

“Broadcasting plays an important role in Wales – portraying and shaping Welsh identity. It also plays a key role in our democracy, ensuring that governments and decision-makers are held to account. As the modern media landscape changes, it is essential that we get this right for the future.

“Today we’re calling on broadcasters, governments and regulators to accept our recommendations and make sure that people in Wales are properly served by the broadcasters they contribute to and rely on.”

Ofcom

The report is also calling for Ofcom to require ITV to produce a greater proportion of its content in Wales – ITV has a requirement to make 35% of its programmes outside of the M25. However, Ofcom data shows that in 2022 ITV’s UK network spend in Wales plummeted to close to 0% of their UK spend. In recent years, the figure was around 5%.

Today’s report outlines how S4C needs more money and a funding formula that provides assurance to help it better plan ahead. The funding arrangement for the broadcaster has changed three times in the past 15 years.

Since 2010, the UK Government has reduced S4C’s funding in real terms by over 30%. This funding settlement severely limits the broadcaster at a time when it needs to expand to provide services across broadcast and on-demand platforms.

Increased support for S4C is not only for it to meet its obligations as a public service broadcaster, but also to ensure it can continue to play a vital role in supporting the Cymraeg 2050 target.

The Committee is also calling for S4C to ensure a more even distribution of spending across Wales. Currently the majority of spend is in the south.

S4C acknowledges it needs to do more and the Committee will be monitoring the situation.

Welsh Government

Although broadcasting is currently a matter for the UK Government, the Committee’s inquiry also looked at the role of the Senedd and the Welsh Government in broadcasting in Wales.

The report agrees with the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales that “the Welsh and UK Governments should agree mechanisms for a stronger voice for Wales on broadcasting policy, scrutiny and accountability”. The Committee is calling for the Senedd to have the opportunity to hold pre-appointment hearings with preferred candidates for Wales members of Ofcom and BBC boards and the S4C Chair, and for the UK Government appointment of the S4C Chair to require the agreement of the Welsh Government.

Explaining Wales’ current broadcasting landscape, the report states: “The broadcasting industry is undergoing a period of significant transformative change driven by technological development and the globalisation of services. Viewers are responding to the huge increase in media choice by moving away from traditional broadcast television to subscription video-on demand (SVOD) services such as Amazon Prime.

“When S4C was launched in 1982, it was one of four television channels available in Wales. It is now one of 70 Freeview channels; not to mention channels available through subscription packages, and online-only services like Netflix. The impact of new digital technologies on broadcast media has seen:

* A reduction in the reach of all the main public service broadcasting channels.

* A reduction in the proportion of time spent watching broadcast television, especially by young people. Only 16% of the video watched by people aged 16-34 in the UK in 2022 was live television. When broadcasters’ catch-up services are included, this figure becomes 23%.

* A sharp growth in the take-up of SVOD services. Between 2015 and 2018 the number of UK homes with access to an SVOD service doubled, and was 66% of households in 2023. 63% of Welsh households had access to an SVOD at the beginning of 2023.

* A large growth in the content budgets of SVOD companies. Netflix and Amazon reportedly spend as much as £15m per hour, compared with the BBC’s indicative tariff of £1m per hour for premium drama.

* In 2022-23, S4C’s cost per hour for drama was £100,000 – £200,000.

* The average daily minutes viewed of broadcast television has been dropping year on year (aside from 2020 which accounts for Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns). In 2017 the average daily viewership in Wales was 228 minutes. By 2022 it had declined to 165 minutes.


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Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
16 days ago

Defund the BBC.

Glen
Glen
14 days ago
Reply to  Iago Traferth

Where would we get our state propaganda from then?

Jeff
Jeff
16 days ago

Under Johnson there was a massive attack on the BBC, it continues today and affects funding greatly. The Gov also upped S4C funding but that comes from the pot that feeds the BBC. This also provides a way for the Tory gov to game the broadcasting landscape in Wales, where Labour rule (I expect this is the game). BBC services are getting the chop left right and centre. As an organisation, the BBC is superb technical and program but it is a pawn in the game the Cons want to play. S4C needs dedicated funding from the treasury (not from… Read more »

Mawkernewek
16 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

My impression is that the BBC is running local radio down, because I think in a few years time they plan to stop MW broadcasting, and they may want to pull the plug on local radio and use the FM spectrum to move Radio 5 to FM.

Jeff
Jeff
16 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

They have been running MW down for a good few years, transition to DAB. Makes sense (with a few caveats).

local radio is getting hit because funding has been wrecked. Remember bbc local radio tore liz truss a new one, that didnt land well at Tory HQ.

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
16 days ago

This is just one of many ways in which Wales is discriminated against (by the UK government and the media) compared with Scotland. HS2, Crown Estate, Barnett funding, the extent of devolution, etc, etc, come to mind. Until Wales’ independence movement threatens the Union as much as that of the Scottish independence movement this discrimination is sure to continue.

Malcolm Jones
Malcolm Jones
16 days ago

Wales being ripped off by the English what a shock

Mawkernewek
16 days ago

Just wait until you hear what the spend is in Cornwall per licence fee payer. Even if you include “Rick Stein’s Cornwall” and similar.

Mawkernewek
16 days ago

Why is the committee only asking for a bit of tinkering not simply devolution of broadcasting?

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
16 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Agree Welsh licence fee to fund Welsh National TV stations. End of.

T.Mann
T.Mann
3 days ago

Does Scotland get double the amount Wales gets when S4C funding from the licence fee is included? Some context and hard figures would have been good in this article. BBC currently gives S4C nearly £90m. Some facts about S4C’s viewing figures would have been good too. Not that they are easy to get. Which tells a story in itself…

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