(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)
At the start of Christmas recess, the Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion), criticised BBC Wales for failing to provide any coverage of the Senedd’s vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement during their flagship evening news programmes on BBC One and S4C.
“This was one of the most significant votes in the history of the Senedd and the absence of any real reflection of this fact on that day on Wales Today and Newyddion 9 was disappointing.
“By contrast, BBC Scotland’s output the following day was dominated by Scottish Parliament’s vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.”
– Llywydd, Elin Jones AM
The Senedd has sometimes been derided as a talking shop. You could argue a symbolic debate and vote on an issue which AMs have absolutely no power to influence epitomises this. That doesn’t mean they were wrong to hold the debate – having no power shouldn’t mean turning a blind eye to the consequences of decisions made in London on our behalf.
Westminster spent the best part of five days debating it. The vote was eventually pulled and is now due to take place next Tuesday (15th January) with a fresh debate. That’s proper windbaggery.
In Cardiff Bay, the debate was done and dusted within 2 hours and, as usual, was conducted to a high standard. On the whole, AMs are usually better at discussing issues of significance than MPs, due to carefully controlled limits on how long they can speak for as well as the more collegiate atmosphere debates are conducted in.
What AMs are also very good at is whining about getting no coverage when there’s often plenty of it about.
Senedd Home covered the debate. It was barely acknowledged by my own social media followers and not at all by AMs (something I’ve grown accustomed to), which perhaps tells you all you need to know about “one of the most significant votes in the history of the Senedd”.
If you include waiting for the result of the final vote at the end of the plenary session, it was unpaid work spread across more than six hours. Of the 465 articles published on Senedd Home during 2018, the Brexit agreement debate ranks 348th with barely 200 views (though an infographic of the vote result did much better on Twitter). The vote on the Brexit Bill earlier in the year, by contrast, was the 9th most-read article of 2018 with just over 4,000 views.
The BBC eventually had a piece on the BBC Wales website. ITV Wales covered it. WalesOnline covered it. Nation.Cymru covered it. The South Wales Argus covered it. National Left covered it. It was no doubt covered on the radio too.
Absolutely every one of the people who wrote or produced those pieces would’ve done the same thing – either sat through the debate itself, checked other sources of information or used simultaneous transcription of Y Cofnod (which in my case is the only reason I’m able to publish posts as quickly as I do).
Every time an AM or another commentator moans about there being a lack of coverage or “the need for a Welsh media”, they’re effectively telling everyone who already makes up “The Welsh Media” that their work isn’t good enough and isn’t appreciated.
Yes, there needs to be a significant improvement to how Welsh politics is covered – particularly its relevance to ordinary people – and the BBC continues to let down Wales in many respects. But when the BBC is talked up as being the only game in town, how can the same people complain that they miss out when the BBC sets their own editorial priorities?