Broadcasting, Wales and the New Environment
given to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Conference
In the speech, Menna Richards announced a £2 million 18-month
programme to develop five local online sites across Wales - one at Wrexham
which was already operating, and four others all to be brought into
service by early 2003. New jobs will be created by the venture.
Text of speech
afternoon - I've been asked to speak to you today about the BBC's role
in the digital future. I was trying to think of words to describe the
digital experience - innovative, creative, technologically challenging
- and that's just trying to find exactly where the services are - according
to some people!
Seriously though I shall start by describing the role of the whole of
the BBC as I see it and then spend some time describing how we in BBC
Wales are planning for the digital future and approaching the new and
innovative ways in which we're planning to use our digital skills and
Firstly - the BBC's role within the digital age. One question regularly
asked is what is the purpose of the BBC in the digital age? The argument
against us goes like this - in a world of massive choice why do we need
the BBC? Why do we need a publicly funded, public service broadcaster
at all? Surely the market will set this agenda - it will provide a comprehensive
service for viewers, listeners and on-line users? Or will it?
The answer is no - it will not. If anything, the role of the BBC will
be more important in a decade's time not less because, as a result of
market fragmentation, the commercial market will not be able to afford
to provide some of the services it has historically produced. More will
be required of the BBC, not less.
Greg Dyke, the Director-General of the BBC - he of the famous yellow
card - has said that he believes the BBC will have three distinct roles
in the 21st century.
The first is an international role and post September 11th the role
of the BBC around the world becomes not less, but more, important.
The World Service and our international on-line news services are based
on a set of values - independence, openness, fairness and a range of
opinion - which reflect the BBC at its best.
The second role in 21st century Britain is a UK role. Whether to celebrate
the millennium or a major sporting event, or even to enjoy the playing
of a much loved programme like Only Fools and Horses - people turn in
their millions to the BBC.
This role becomes more not less important in a fragmenting media world.
35 million people in the UK turned to the BBC's radio and television
news services on September 11th.
Thirdly, the BBC has an increasingly important role to play in the nations
of the UK - in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The BBC has already
invested heavily in a new digital service for Wales, BBC 2W; we are
also developing local online sites which will feature one of the most
exciting digital projects in the whole of the BBC. We're able to do
this only because we are public funded. And these new things are on
top of what we already do as part of our public service commitments
including providing the only national radio station broadcasting in
Welsh, Radio Cymru as well as producing some of S4C's most popular and
successful programming. It simply wouldn't happen if it were left to
You will know that two weeks ago the BBC launched two new digital channels
for children. They will be driven by original UK production. No other
broadcaster plans to provide this type of quality, interactive, all-round
education and entertainment service for children. They will be subscription
free - so no child will be deprived. They will offer unique programming
like a 3 times daily news service for children. And they will be totally
advertising free - and parents won't find that anywhere on commercial
And this Saturday, March 2nd we launch the service that allows everyone
a place to think BBC Four - the digital channel concentrating
on arts and culture. BBC Wales will be at the centre of this new channel
as a regular producer of programmes for BBC Four. On March 3rd, BBC
Four will be screening a unique Welsh collaboration. BBC Wales' recording
of Welsh National Opera's production of Madam Buttefly can be seen on
Over the next few weeks and months, BBC Wales' arts and music programmes
will be a regular feature of the new digital channel. So that's just
some of what we're doing to bring artistic excellence from Wales to
screens throughout the UK.
What about what we can offer in Wales that makes us different, distinctive
In November of last year we launched 2W - BBC Wales' own digital service.
Every weeknight from 8.30pm to 10.00pm it offers viewers in Wales and
beyond programmes that are in addition to what we already provide on
BBC1 and BBC2. We launched 2W because of demand from audiences for more
programming for and about Wales. The research reflected clear views
about what the audience want to see and do not want to see. They don't
want introspection, self-obsession or anything too Welshy
as they put it. They want to see a Welsh dimension within our programming
but they also want programmes that are as good as anything broadcast
elsewhere. Viewers recognise that network TV services have neglected
Wales in the past - and this is why we're listening and responding to
their demands for more programming about Wales.
In a world of increasing competition, it was very important to us when
we launched BBC 2W that it should be consistent and coherent which is
why we've scheduled it between 8.30 p.m. and 10.00 p.m. every weeknight.
It's also worth reminding ourselves that digital take up in Wales at
40% is higher than the rest of the UK.
The digital future isn't just about means of delivery. It's about content.
At BBC Wales we're developing in partnership with Cardiff University,
and the University of Berkley, California a pioneering initiative using
digital technology which at the same time allows us to create a much
stronger relationship with the communities we serve. It's called Digital
Storytelling, and is a central part of a new project that I'm delighted
to be able to announce here today.
Over the next eighteen months BBC Wales will be connecting with the
communities of Wales by launching five local online sites called Where
I Live. These will be in the north-east, south-west, north-west, south-east
and middle of Wales.
These sites will include local news, information on events in the area
and stories about local history - and the really exciting thing is that
the people of each area will be contributing directly to the sites to
give them the sense of ownership that is such an important part of the
BBC's work in this day and age.
Indeed the first Where I Live site based in Wrexham is already operating
- with the local community contributing approximately 50% of the site
- true collaboration.
Each Where I Live site will also webcast short films made by members
of the public. These are called digital stories because they use the
latest digital technology. Since last summer BBC Wales has been training
volunteers from different backgrounds and geographical areas how to
make these stories. Our intention is that the kit for producing digital
stories will be available from all the BBC's community studios throughout
Wales so that more and more members of the public can create their own
that have been produced so far have been rich, varied and creative -
with one important element in common - they give us a very personal
insight into the lives of the individuals of Wales - real lives, real
people - remarkable lives, remarkable people. This promises to be a
huge source of material with the capability to be developed in many
other BBC Wales services over time. It's a privilege to be able to share
these stories with people who wouldn't have had an opportunity to tell
them without digital technology.
I'd like to show you some of the stories - the first one is......
can see how moving, affecting, humorous and life-affirming these stories
can be. These are not tales that would be told in a conventional way
- the intimacy would not be as apparent if you had a full television
crew involved and I'm certain that you wouldn't get the same refreshing
I'm proud to be able to share these stories. For BBC Wales, digital
storytelling allows us to get to know the communities we serve in depth
- after all we must never forget that at the end of the day it is all
about the audience and that is why we are all here.