Wales politics

BBC Wales 'should be accountable', says Welsh Conservative leader

BBC Llandaff
Image caption Andrew RT Davies says decisions taken at BBC Wales should be scrutinised

BBC Wales should be accountable to the assembly in the future, the Welsh Conservative leader has suggested.

Andrew RT Davies said the BBC has a "near monopoly" on reporting devolution and should be scrutinised by Welsh politicians.

This, he said, would make senior management and editors accountable for the actions they and their teams take.

UK ministers said there was a "net benefit" to all parts of the United Kingdom in not devolving broadcasting.

Neither AMs or the Welsh government currently have functions relating to broadcasting.

The BBC Trust is a UK wide body to oversee the BBC, although there is an Audience Council in Wales which "scrutinises the BBC's services on behalf of BBC audiences in Wales".

Mr Davies told an audience in Aberystwyth: "The editorial decisions that are taken in Wales not just on politics but on how Wales is reported must be scrutinised by the most important democratically elected body in Wales."

He also warned the BBC's ability to "extend its reach in news" through online services is "perhaps to the detriment of other news outlets who usually need advertising revenues or online charging schemes to pay for anywhere near like for like presence".

"In the Welsh context, it is near on impossible for a competitor to emerge because of the dominance of the BBC's website - it is free, extensive and accessible on portable devices."

Mr Davies has written to Culture Secretary Maria Miller to argue that the future governance of the BBC in Wales should be considered during the charter renewal process in 2017.

'No evidence'

However, this call from Mr Davies is at odds with the current position of the UK government.

In its submission to the second part of the Silk Commission considering further powers for the assembly, the Wales Office said: "There are good reasons why broadcasting was not devolved in the devolution settlements and there is no evidence to suggest that devolution of broadcasting policy or a different approach to funding the BBC would benefit licence fee payers.

"There is a greater net benefit to the nation and all its constituent parts in having broadcasting reserved."

A spokesman for the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport restated this position on Wednesday, saying Mr Davies's suggestion was not being considered.

In a statement the BBC Trust said: "The BBC is accountable to licence fee payers across the UK through the BBC Trust.

"In Wales, the national trustee Elan Closs Stephens represents the interests of Welsh licence fee payers and the trust is advised about the BBC's performance by the Audience Council Wales.

"The Welsh assembly is involved in the process of appointing the national trustee."

'Constitutional tinkering'

In a separate submission to the commission, the Welsh Conservative assembly group agreed key decisions on broadcasting in Wales should remain the responsibility of UK ministers.

But the document also called for a "mechanism of joint accountability" to both the assembly and the UK parliament, so devolved matters such as the Welsh language could be addressed better.

Mr Davies also called for an end to the block grant system, by which the UK Treasury funds the Welsh government, where he says "a cheque is sent down the M4 and simply cashed, and usually more demanded on top".

On Wednesday the prime minister refused to say when new tax and borrowing powers, recommended by the first part of the Silk Commission, would be implemented in Wales.

In his speech Mr Davies acknowledged David Cameron's view that those involved in politics in Cardiff Bay are "obsessed with constitutional tinkering" but blame a "poor" original devolution settlement that has left many policy makers discussing the constitution rather than policy.

More on this story

Around the BBC