Ahead of this week’s IWA Cardiff Media Summit, BBC Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies describes how BBC News is adapting its online service for Wales to better reflect the realities of devolution
Next month, at the flick of a switch, the BBC will introduce a far-reaching change to its online news service in Wales.
For the first time, the BBC’s main news homepage will deliver a tailor-made service for signed-in users in Wales that blends the biggest global, UK and Welsh stories in one integrated menu.
So rather than having to search out the biggest Welsh stories in the dedicated ‘Wales section’ of the website, more of these will now be found on the main homepage along with the other big news of the day.
This adaptation will ensure the BBC News’s main online entry-point properly reflects the realities of a devolved UK – striking an appropriate balance from day to day between major UK/international coverage produced by our colleagues elsewhere and those stories with particular significance here in Wales.
The need for change was clear. Over recent years, many commentators – including of course the IWA – have been concerned that many people in Wales are over-reliant on media produced outside the country.
Rightly, they have worried about the implications for citizenship and the quality and scope of our national discourse if Welsh stories are hidden from view, given too little prominence or just ignored entirely.
This was, perhaps, seen most vividly in the coverage of the doctors’ strike in England. The wall-to-wall reports across the UK media – however well they were labelled – convinced many people in Wales that the strike must be taking place here too. After all, if it wasn’t, why were we hearing so much about it in Wales?
The change we’re making addresses that challenge head-on and will help us deliver a more balanced agenda on the main homepage that better reflects the particular needs of users in Wales.
Of course, the other reasons the change matters so much is because online has become such an important news medium. Although the political debate about news provision in Wales so often centres on radio and TV, the pivotal role of online is now clear and undisputed.
In 2018, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that 74% of UK adults used some online service each week to find news with 66% using TV, 39% printed newspapers and 34% radio. Amongst 16-24 year olds, the proportion using online to find news rises to 91%.
The audience demand in Wales is clear too. More than 3.2m different (unique) browsers now access BBC Wales’ online news service each week – 19% up year on year. In addition, about a quarter of adults in Wales sign-in to BBC online each week, enabling us to provide a more bespoke service.
With so many people now turning to online for news, we’ve been raising our game editorially too. We’ve appointed new specialist correspondents (across home affairs, social affairs, sport and Brexit coverage), expanded our video content, added new podcasts and extended weekend coverage.
In all, we’ve invested an extra £1.8m across our multi-media news services – that’s tv, radio, online and social – as a result of new Charter investment, creating 28 jobs.
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