Media in Wales: A democratic necessity

Lee Waters and Angela Graham introduce the first part of the IWA Wales Media Audit.

52% of people in Wales do not realise that the NHS is run by the Welsh Government and not the UK Government.

Nearly a fifth of voters in Wales consistently tell pollsters they felt unable to rate First Minister Carwyn Jones because they don’t know enough about him.

How can Wales develop as a vibrant democracy if its citizens don’t have basic information about how decisions are made?

IWA Wales Media Audit

Yesterday: Read Lee Waters’ introduction to the IWA Wales Media Audit

Today: See section 1 of the draft Wales Media Audit in full here. 

Wales is not unique in facing challenges arising from profound changes to the technology, business model and changing consumption habits of the modern media.  But Wales is the worst placed of the UK nations in being able to deal with these challenges whilst developing a political and civic culture.

At the time of the IWA’s last Media Audit in 2008 it was clear that media deficiencies in Wales were, on any objective test, significantly worse than in either of the two other devolved territories, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The only exception to this was television provision in the Welsh language.

The 2008 Audit concluded: “Of the three, Wales has the weakest print environment, the weakest commercial radio sector, is the only country where none of its commercial radio stations is indigenously owned, is the only one of the three whose ITV franchise holder was absorbed into ITV plc, and the country where the BBC is most dominant in both radio and television.”

Seven years later, although, with some exceptions, the availability of communications has significantly improved, the position regarding content for audiences in Wales  is considerably worse. Output and spend on English language television by BBC and ITV has further diminished, with an inevitable narrowing of the range of programmes. S4C has suffered the first ever cut in its funding. Ownership of commercial radio has undergone further consolidation, usually with consequent reductions in locally originated output. Like newspapers everywhere the print circulations of Welsh newspapers continue to drop, while their journalistic resources shrink.

While there have been substantial increases in the accessing of news through a range of digital platforms, this has not compensated for a reduction in the forensic capacity of Welsh journalism. In a situation that requires investment and coherence, overall Wales has seen market failure writ large.

Currently, there is no sign that this downward trajectory in the total media service for Wales service will be halted, let alone reversed. In both 2010 and 2015 the UK Government imposed tough licence fee settlements on the BBC that imply significant real terms reductions. This is bound to impact on S4C. An agreement between Ofcom and ITV plc envisages no increase in output for Wales up to 2024, if ever. Even the current output may be endangered if ITV plc is sold to an overseas buyer. In September 2015 Trinity Mirror announced further reductions in its journalistic staff in Wales.  Outside the BBC, provision on radio is also threatened.  Under current legislation, a future switchover to digital transmission, could see the end of any news, weather and other local content of relevance to listeners in Wales on commercial radio, with community radio’s limited reach being unable to compensate for this loss.

An improvement on the current provision is a democratic, social and cultural necessity.

Media policy in Wales is a reserved matter under the direct control of the UK government. It is essential, therefore, that the UK government recognise the particular media needs of Wales and that the Welsh Government, too, should act to the full extent of its capacity in this area.

The Welsh Government does not publish an assessment of trends in the Welsh media.  In conducting this audit, the IWA is, to some extent, executing two tasks that the Welsh Government recognised as necessary in its response to recommendations made in 2012 by the National Assembly’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s Task and Finish Group: The Future Outlook for the Media in Wales.

This group had recommended the creation of an independent advisory forum on media policy, together with a review of the media needs of the people of Wales. It was anticipated that this would draw on expertise from across the media sectors, would look to the future, and advise on matters across all media sectors.

Although Welsh Government did not accept this recommendation it recognised it as “a reasonable request and not altogether unexpected, as the coming period will see extensive changes in our media landscape, changes caused by market forces, technological change, user behaviour and UK Government intervention.” As “a crucial first step in addressing the Committee’s concerns” the Welsh Government said it would set up a Broadcasting Advisory Panel “to review matters in relation to broadcasting”.

In its responses to the Committee the Welsh Government accepted in principle the recommendation for a review of media needs and stated that the BAP would be expected “to provide advice on whether a similar exercise should be undertaken”. No such review has taken place. To our knowledge the panel did not publish any reports or advice to Ministers. Its final meeting was in 2013.

We have done our best to fill the gap drawing on the IWA’s modest charitable resources and a huge voluntary effort from members of the IWA’s Media Policy Group. A final version of our new Media Audit will be published online at the IWA’s Cardiff Media Summit on 11th November. The Summit is designed specifically to advance analysis, discussion and refinement of our proposals.

From today we are publishing key sections of the report in draft to allow our work and conclusions to be challenged, in the hope that this process will strengthen our final conclusions.

We are publishing our chapter on the state of television in Wales today – you can click here to read it in full.

Tomorrow we’ll publish our draft chapter on radio, internet and broadband on Thursday, and Press, Online and Interactive Media on Friday. Next week we’ll be publishing our draft recommendations for what action needs to be taken to address the issues we identify, and we’re inviting a range of commentators to post their responses to the data and analysis over the coming weeks too.

You can leave comments on this site or email them during our consultation period which ends on 23rd October. Responses should be sent to jessica.blair@iwa.org.uk

We can only carry out this work with the support of our members. If you are not a member but value the work we do to try and help Wales flourish please support us by joining.

Lee Waters is Director of the IWA. Angela Graham is Chair of the IWA's Media Policy Group.

23 thoughts on “Media in Wales: A democratic necessity

  1. The audit lists Virgin Media, BT and Sky but not Freeview. Freeview and Freesat are available to anyone with a set top boxed equipped to receive it and does not require a subscription. So, for example, where the statement is made that Virgin provides S4C across the UK, so do Freeview and Freesat.

    Something less visible is the variation just on this service across Wales – depending not only on geography, but also the transmitter – main transmitters offering a far wider range than the smaller relays. The reason for raising this is that there is no variation in the licence fee levied on the households affected by this reduced service.

  2. The first two paragraphs sum up all that is wrong with modern-day Wales.

    Think education, education, education!

    It’s not rocket science and it has little to do with having a vibrant media. Two generations ago we started to be taught about the ‘horrid English’. There was no truth to it but our forefathers lapped it up and passed it on down through the subsequent generations. That’s the power of education!

    Now we just need to learn to educate ourselves in matters of fact, not fiction!

  3. “52% of people in Wales do not realise that the NHS is run by the Welsh Government and not the UK Government”

    It may be more than that really; 43% said that the UK government ran the Welsh NHS. 9% admitted that they didn’t know. 48% said that the Assembly ran the Welsh NHS, but logically if 43% guess and guess wrongly that Westminster was responsible then a similar percentage might also guess and guess rightly that it is Carwyn & Co.

    There is no concrete evidence that ANYONE in Wales knows that the Welsh government is responsible for the NHS in Wales. A sobering thought.

    An astute politician like Carwyn could take advantage of this situation by blaming the poor state of NHSW on the Tory government in England; at least 43% of the population would accept this position and perhaps as many as 90% would go along with it.

    No; too far fetched, no self respecting Welsh political party would fight an Assembly election by blaming the Westminster parties.

  4. All very good however I would like to know the following: how many social media users are there in Wales. How many use twitter, how many use facebook etc. How many of those are politically engaged and not just tweeting their bloody cat pictures and/or dinner. This I feel is the future we should be considering now. How many are watching video programmes [ I think we should drop the TV nomenclature] online and where.

    On a seperate note: the statement that 52% of Welsh residents don’t know the NHS is run by the Welsh Government is a damning enditement of those residents. I am assuming that they are over a certain age yes? It isn’t made clear. I doubt my children [ both under 9] know for instance – [ hacing said that in this house the probably do!]. Cofion

  5. @ Karen

    Your accusation is that our education system is teaching our children a history that is untrue. What examples do you have in mind?

  6. This is a hugely important moment in the sustainability of the media in Wales and so this document should be central to any discussions going forward. Many of the arguments have been made previously but bringing the historical narrative, the political and democratic context and the statistical data together like this brings home how bleak the future could be – I want to emphasise ‘could’ here as there is time to change things. I think it is worth pointing out the successes that Wales have enjoyed in relation to television production: Dr Who which is enjoyed worldwide is made right here (though its ‘Welshness’ is invisible); YGwyll/Hinterland brings the Welsh language, talent and landscape to a global audience and Wales is able to compete with other territories for productions like Da Vinci’s Demons and The Bastard Executioner bringing jobs and resources to different regions within Wales.

    However, these high profile successes are built on the day to day commissions and productions which build the sector’s capacity. Reading this report it seems to me that it is this foundation which is under threat and the consequences of undermining that resource will have repercussions for generations of Welsh citizens and those working in the media here . While the report gives us the context and what appears to be reliable and robust data, we do need to discuss the implications of the figures and what is at stake if current trends continue in terms of declining hours, value and budgets.

  7. Most people in the UK are uninterested in politics and therefore ill-informed about it. The difference in Wales is that even the minority who take an interest find it much harder to inform themselves without dedicated research because our media are so thin. You can follow Westminster in the FT, Telegraph or Guardian and get comment on the Beeb or in the Spectator or New Statesman. Few do, but they can if they want. Where are the Welsh equivalents? They do not exist. So here even the informed minority is not so well informed. If you doubt that – just read blogposts on clickon.

  8. What’s the sate of the media in Yorkshire and Humberside I wonder? I only ask because the population is 5.6 million so its a larger region than Wales. Why do we think that because we have that shed down in the Bay of Indolence that we should have a sizeable volume of political commentary or a more intense regional scrutiny.

    Maybe we’ve got a disproportionately large volume of TV production, bloated by decades of funding for S4C. Many have become millionaires on the back of programmes that no one watches.

  9. @R.Tredwyn.As clearly one of the ‘not so well informed minority’ I wish to record my thanks to you,and others who are part of the ‘well informed minority’ for helping ever so ‘umble’ me in this confusing world. Perhaps our,and esteemed WAG should set up tests on how well individual voters are ‘informed’ before allowing them to vote,much like was done in Rome,as the PLEBS are beyond the pale. Our media might be thin,but they clearly have clear liking for a)devolution,and ever more devolution,welsh language enforcement at a)huge public expense,b)complete waste of the said expense!!.All I can say is that most of the people I meet/respect who have a)gone to good universities,b)achieved professional/business success have similar ‘jaundiced’ views of current welsh political settlement,even though plainly part of the great ‘unwashed’ in your eyes!!. Diolch Hywel ap Morgan.

  10. @ J Jones

    Wales is a nation with its own legislature, Yorkshire is not. The media should reflect the social reality of a society for the benefit of its citizens.

  11. I have always and continually asked myself WHY Wales does not have the quality standard of journalism ; print or media that is evident in Scotland.
    Why here in Cardiff , THE WESTERN MAIL & THE ECHO come at at virtually same time each day and carry virtually the same ,”news”, and sadly much of it is banal.

    Perhaps a population gets the media it deserves.

  12. Well this little lot is a bit irresistible, isn’t it?

    To our reincarnated Glendowerian guerrilla fighter, Rhobat Bryn Jones, once again, where do want me to start?

    Your glorious but infamous ‘Welsh Not’ was inflicted by the Welsh on the Welsh, nothing to do with those evil villains across the ‘border’.

    Henry Tudor was as Welsh as William the Conqueror and he didn’t speak the lingo – he was a French and Latin man, sensible chap. One could of course get all romantic and corrupt the fact that his servant granddad married Henry V’s widow etc etc but this would be taking historical antecedent to Walt Disney proportions

    Oh and Guy Fawkes is Guy Fawkes not hilarious Guto Faucs, and Africa is Africa not Affrica, to name just a few more made-up Welshy corruptions.

    Do I need to go on? There’s plenty more
    .
    Now, the ‘Welsh media’ and from one who knows and who operates right at the centre of it.

    Let’s take BBC ap Wales and the Western Mail.

    Both organisation’s are full to the brim with staffers, hacks, presenters, editors even previous controllers who have been screwing the taxpayer for years eg taxpayer hand outs for their silly ‘life stories’ that no-one is remotely interested in, books eulogising nationalist jailbirds and arsonists and even books on hill trotting, weather and rugby.

    (I am happy to provide names and amounts if requested, but all this is already in the public domain. I personally have seen to this.)

    There is also the fact that the Western Mail receives over £200,000 + pa in advertising revenue from Carwyn ap Jong Un’s government.

    So then, does one really need to wonder why the Welsh ‘media’ is so irrelevant and why its hacks are so passive and compliant?

    Soon, Trinity Mirror may well be monitoring the number of clicks its journos get. Good job, such a protocol might just liven up their kow-towing pedestrian journalism.

    You know in my humble opinion (alright, maybe not so humble) and I mean this, Wales has had it. Everything I have witnessed and observed since my return, both socially and politically, militates against any other conclusion.

    It will continue to be a grandiloquent backwater, a profound lesson on how not to do things and a celebration of parochial torpor. It will endure as a soaking wet, but quaint redoubt of times gone by and a tragic crematorium of ambition.

    And the Welsh have only themselves to blame.

    Julian Ruck

    PS And by the way, I’ve just had a new political thriller published: A Judge And Nothing But. I’m writing this with a smile as I can’t quite see anyone here being interested somehow. Best price is on Amazon, some of you might read it if only to hammer Ruck!

  13. Sorry to hear about the hit and run attack on Julian Ruck. Also dismayed to read a death threat to a member of the family of Jacques Protic.

    Just to make clear; I am a strong supporter of anything to do with Welsh medium education, Welsh independence, Welsh culture and BBC Wales/Cymru and I thoroughly support the added advertising revenue that the Welsh press gains by having every advert written twice. This in no way prejudices their editors in favour of a bilingual Wales.

    Cymru am byth!

  14. Julian Ruck asks, “Do I need to go on?”. The answer would appear to be yes but only if it makes you feel better. In terms of a contribution to the debate, it is non-existent. However we can arrange for your name to be added to the long list of ranters who frequent this website from time to time.

    I concur with Ben Screen’s question. As you are so unhappy being in Wales, why are you still here? However there is an answer to Ben’s question. If you did move somewhere else, you would find that you were just as unhappy living there as well. Better to live with the fantasy that it’s all down to Wales.

  15. ‘As you are so unhappy being in Wales, why are you still here?’

    It is interesting to read a leftist updating of the old ‘If you don’t like it here, go live in Russia.’

    To answer the question directly, many – perhaps most – Welsh people are unimpressed by the current state of Wales, but it is still our country, the land of our fathers. It is the most beautiful country in the world and boasts a historical tradition second to none. Abroad is nice but this is home. We are therefore sentimental about the place, even if we could make more money elsewhere. Some of us also feel it is a land of great potential. If sometimes we sound frustrated, it is because we can see how much better our country could be if only we made a few relatively simple changes. We see no reason why everything here should always be the monopoly of the diehard disciples of the failed ideologies of nationalism and socialism.

    So the past and the possible future of Wales strengthen us to put up with the present.

  16. @ John Winterson Richards

    Julian Ruck does not see anything positive about Wales at all and does not share the view that you express in your third paragraph. In his words, “Wales has had it … And the Welsh have only themselves to blame.” So he hates Wales and the Welsh. So the question remains why does he live here if it makes him so miserable? That is a world away from telling someone to go and live elsewhere and it is misleading to suggest otherwise. If Julian Ruck wishes to live in Wales, that is his choice but then why does he complain endlessly and publicly about the choice he has made?

    I found it entertaining to hear you say that Wales is a land of potential when you have written endlessly attacking and belittling the efforts of those attempting to realise that potential. You talk about putting up with the present; what about doing something to improve it?

  17. I haven’t read the Yorkshire Post for years. I expect it is in better shape than the Western Mail. Despite Howell’s sarcasm i was not belittling anyone but pointing out that if you have an elected body with some powers it is helpful to know what is going on in it. I accept without rebuke that most people are uninterested in politics. That’s their prerogative. The point stands that if you are interested in Westminster you can get info and comment from the media. If you are interested in what the WAG and the Assembly are doing to or for us it is much harder because there is little coverage. That cannot be good for WAG, the Assembly or, most importantly, the electors.

  18. Happy to entertain you, Rhobat. However, the present condition of Wales is far from entertaining.

    Part of the problem is that it is impossible to find ‘those who are attempting to realise that potential,’ at least in positions of power and influence. Our business class is underdeveloped and generally ignored, and our political class seems dedicated to bringing the whole of Wales down to the level of Valleys local government.

    Surely, those responsible for our economic development and our public services, most importantly health and education, falling further and further behind England’s deserve to be criticised for it? The excessive deference towards the Assembly by its supporters, not a few of whom are employed or subsidised by it, is another part of the problem.

    Alas, your word ‘attacking’ overstates the power of criticism within the system you helped to establish. With power centralised increasingly in and within the ‘Cardiff Bay Bubble,’ there is nothing a poor, powerless private subject can do beyond place his dissent on the public record.

  19. “Two generations ago we started to be taught about the ‘horrid English’.”

    Eh?? I went to school in Wales (Monmouthshire) and have no idea what is meant by

    Whoever wrote that statement has obviously never been to Wales and assuming that in Wales the first thing we do when we wake up is to talk about the English. After all the first thing the English do when they wake up is to talk about the Scots and Welsh so we must do the same as the English.

  20. I would appreciate it if this blog shows some respect for the family and friends of Julian as following a serious accident on 17th October , and he is now dangerously ill.
    G. K. Brightmore.

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