There was a great deal of praise for the recently broadcast The Story of Wales (BBC Wales/Open University co-commission) with one participant saying "it was fabulous - nobody does programmes like that except the BBC".
However, several participants said that it was now noticeable that there were fewer opt-out television programmes for Wales broadcast and this was a matter of concern.
Programming that contributed to 'family viewing' was considered important, with Doctor Who, Sherlock and Strictly Come Dancing specifically mentioned. Some participants said that it was great to have programmes which stimulated conversations, above and beyond soaps.
A question was raised regarding the perceived proliferation of on-air promotions between programmes, with some participants of the opinion that they were too frequent while others were of the opinion that in a multi-channel digital world they were a positive contribution to the viewing experience. BBC Wales trailers related to Rugby's Six Nations Championship were considered particularly effective and enjoyable.
One participant, who was not a Welsh speaker said that his most frequently watched channel was S4C, since he felt it was the channel with the highest quality content. His only major gripe with S4C was the level of repeats.
One participant praised BBC Three, while recognising that neither he, nor the meeting's other participants who also appreciated the channel, represented that channel's target audience.
BBC Four was also praised for its interesting output with its 'music nights' particularly appreciated. Concern was expressed that cost savings could lead to BBC Four's offering becoming a less attractive, were its focus to be narrowed.
Car travel was for many participants the key period for listening to the radio, with Radio 2 being mentioned by several participants, but considered largely to be, with few exceptions, a "background wallpaper experience - but better than silence"! Jeremy Vine was specifically mentioned as one of the attractors to listen to Radio 2.
Online and on-demand
The BBC's web offering was widely praised, with one participant saying that he now rarely consumed TV programmes on a TV screen, but rather did so on a computer or mobile phone, using the BBC's on-demand services.
Another participant said that he also consumed more of the BBC's offerings on-line than by any other means and that the computer screen had now become an "alternative TV screen" for him, since he could watch his own selection of material without disturbing his children's viewing.
News and current affairs
News was a very contentious issue, with some participants deeply critical of the BBC's coverage of the last UK General Election - "Gordon Brown had only to pick his nose in public and the story would go on for weeks, while the Tories had a clear run at it". Others disagreed and said that they could not detect any weakening in the BBC's commitment to unbiased news. There was a general consensus that the BBC World Service represented the 'gold standard' in terms of fair, impartial and accurate news.
Other participants detected a trend to "sex up the news" in a similar fashion to other TV news outlets. There was particular criticism of some newsreaders that participants felt displayed too much emotion when reading the news, rather than the neutral more factual tone many of the participants felt was more appropriate.
A criticism made by several participants was that BBC Network news still failed to make it clear whether they were making reference to the UK or to the individual nations within the UK. There was a general consensus that the BBC in general, and the BBC network News service in particular, needed to recognise to a much greater extent the devolved settlement within the UK.
The reporting of sports news was highlighted in this context as needing particular attention, with BBC News' recent decision to lead on the English rugby team's win over Ireland on the final weekend of the tournament, rather than Wales winning the Six Nations Championship's Grand Slam, considered unforgiveable for the British Broadcasting Corporation by all the participants present. As one participant said "sometimes the BBC's sports news coverage is like a movie version of the Daily Telegraph's sports pages".
Sport was a popular genre for many of those present, with rugby being of particular interest. One matter of concern raised was the recent habit of some rugby commentators of continuing their commentary while the national anthems were being played at the start of international rugby games, which was deplored.
DQF was a matter of significant concern to all participants with those present emphasising that the quality of its output was what differentiated the BBC from other broadcasters. Any threat to this was a huge concern. A 20% reduction in the BBC's budget was considered to be a swingeing cut by all the participants, with many aware that the BBC had already undertaken a significant period of efficiency savings. As well as the perceived danger to the future of the BBC itself, there was also a perception that any weakening in the BBC's range and quality of output could also leave the public "at the mercy of whoever has the money" in broadcasting terms.
Partnerships were considered things to be encouraged with the recent co-commission between BBC Wales and Open University, The Story of Wales, considered a model for future productions. Participants were also aware of the forthcoming partnership between the National Eisteddfod and the BBC. While the BBC is to be the core broadcaster from the event, it will also act as the technical partner during some televised concerts from the Eisteddfod with another company being the actual producer of the event.
Participants also saw the value of producing TV and radio programmes in both Welsh and English at the same time, with, for example, the same journalist presenting reports in both Welsh and English considered a sensible use of resources. The forthcoming programmes in both Welsh and English on the Falklands war of 1982 were considered to be models for future production of factual programming.
The educational role of the BBC was considered vital, with BBC language learning programmes highly valued in the past. While there was an appreciation of the range of learning material now available on-line, there was a perception that not as much learning related programming was available on TV these days. There was however an appreciation of the 'edutainment' value of much of the BBC's TV and radio output, with programmes such as Frozen Planet being specifically mentioned.
The licence fee was considered very good value for money by most of the participants, particularly in relation to the costs of most pay TV packages. All those present used satellite technology to access their viewing with no-one using Freeview or cable.
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