Tony Hall: BBC's English language TV programming in Wales 'eroded'

BBC Llandaff Since 2006/7 BBC Wales' budget for English language TV programmes has fallen 18%

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The BBC's English language television programming in Wales has been "eroded" in recent years, said the corporation's director general.

Tony Hall made the remarks in Cardiff during a wide-ranging speech to mark BBC Cymru Wales' 50th anniversary.

English language programming from and for Wales by all broadcasters had been declining for almost a decade, he said.

He said some aspects of Welsh life were not "sufficiently captured by the BBC's own television services in Wales".

Since 2006/7 BBC Wales' budget for English language TV programmes has fallen 18% from £24.6m to £20.2m in 2012/13.

The director general, who recently announced that the BBC would boost its coverage of the arts, said the decision by BBC Wales to deal with budget cuts by prioritising news, current affairs and political coverage had been at the expense of areas such as comedy, entertainment and culture.

Lord Hall admitted during his speech that there were "no easy solutions", and added that the recent decision to close BBC Three as a broadcast channel illustrated the "hard financial choices" facing the corporation.

BBC Wales has to find savings of £10.7m by 2017 as part of the Delivering Quality First programme introduced after the last licence fee settlement, and recently announced its intention to close a number of posts in its factual and music department.

Speaking at the National Assembly for Wales' Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, the director general called on his audience "to be a part of the debate" about how the BBC "strengthens its support for national and regional self-expression as it prepares its case for a new charter".

The BBC's royal charter, which sets out its purposes and the way it is run, is reviewed every 10 years and faces renewal in 2017.

'Mutual respect'

Lord Hall said there was much to celebrate during BBC Wales' 50th anniversary year, and pointed out that the average use of the BBC in Wales was more than 6.5 hours per household every day - the highest level anywhere in the UK.

Lord Hall also announced that former US President Jimmy Carter would be involved in BBC Wales' programming to mark the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.

President Carter, who is a longstanding fan of Thomas' work, will take part in a live transatlantic broadcast in May between BBC Radio Wales and WNYC, New York's public radio station.

He also praised the partnership between the BBC and S4C, saying it was "striking how the two broadcasters have forged a remarkable new partnership based on trust and mutual respect".

The director general will appear before assembly members on Thursday morning alongside BBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies.

They are giving evidence to an inquiry looking at the future of the media in Wales, which will also take evidence from Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, and Elan Clos Stephens, the BBC trustee for Wales.

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