Groundhog Day: AMs discuss broadcasting, say they’re concerned, do nothing

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Issue

This is beginning to sound like a stuck record, but…. oh, sod it – you know the problem.

I’ve covered it so many times I’ve become increasingly fed up with trying to come up with ways to say “there’s a bit of a problem when it comes to Wales in the media”. It’s the same things over and over again and, unfortunately, this isn’t going to be much different. That’s part of the problem.

I’ll point you to some previous posts, particularly Senedd on the Box, The Assembly & The Democratic Deficit and my summary of the IWA’s 2015 Media Audit.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Recognises the importance of broadcasting to democracy in Wales.
  • Is concerned by the significant decline in ITV Wales’s broadcasting hours, significant cuts to S4C and its current uncertain financial position, the position of Welsh-language and Welsh broadcasting on commercial radio and local television, along with the impact of the UK Government’s proposals to further regulate the radio market.
  • Notes that Wales needs to be at the forefront of the development of media technologies and that Welsh-language and Welsh broadcasting needs to be on a broader number of platforms and modes of producing, publishing and distributing content.
  • Agrees that full consideration is given to the devolution of broadcasting to Wales, calling on the Welsh Government to investigate the feasibility of devolving powers over broadcasting, reporting back to the Assembly within one year.

Key Points

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon)
For (the motion): Start the work now.

  • Plaid isn’t seeking immediate support for broadcasting devolution but seeing support to start preparatory work with a view to it in the future.
  • Lack of media plurality in Wales and a decline in broadcasting hours hinders political debate and education.
  • UK Government plans for regulation of commercial radio could see further declines in Welsh news.
  • S4C has been through a period of financial uncertainty that makes future planning “very difficult”.

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West)
Against: Would devolved broadcasting make a difference to people’s understanding of Wales?

  • We need a period of time to see how the BBC is delivering its commitments for Wales.
  • People assume the Welsh Government will find extra money for public service broadcasting that the UK Government supposedly can’t fund.
  • If the Welsh Government are too prescriptive on commercial broadcasting licenses, would it put companies off applying for them?
  • She wasn’t sure devolution of broadcasting would “help us understand our devolved nation better”; the heart of the problem is people choose to consume media from outside Wales across many platforms.

Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
For: People don’t know enough about what’s happening around them.

  • The Brexit vote proved “people in Wales know little about current affairs in their own country”.
  • Welsh newspapers are contracting and there’s no mention of Wales on the most popular radio station – BBC Radio 2.
  • A third of people don’t know health has been devolved to Wales for almost 20 years.

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)
Against: Welsh people aren’t interested in Welsh broadcasting.

  • Concerned about declines in Welsh and English language broadcasting, but wouldn’t support devolution.
  • We need to get as much production as we can into Wales to serve a bigger audience.
  • “You can lead a horse to water, but can’t make it drink” and no good art was ever created by a committee.

Welsh Government Response

Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)

  • This isn’t the time to start discussing devolution of broadcasting but does support the principle that Welsh and English language broadcasting should be sufficiently funded.
  • Public service broadcasters should be accountable to all the UK’s parliaments.
  • The Welsh Government are working hard to ensure the BBC’s Charter “delivers far more for the people of Wales”.


No surprises as AMs choose to kick the can down the road yet again. It’s going to take something like the closure of The Western Mail or a full merger between S4C and BBC for them to consider anything outside their comfort zone – by then it’ll be too late. Gareth Bennett was the sole abstainer.

Just to spell that out for any AMs who might be reading this….this is perhaps one of the few places outside the BBC that anyone will read about this debate.

An amended version of the motion which broadly called for better support of Welsh broadcasting by the UK Government (FFS) was approved by 41 votes to 8.

  • 37