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Tomorrow's BBC: Cardiff seminar

The third of the Trust’s Charter Review seminars was held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 20 October 2015. The event was chaired by Bethan Rhys Roberts.

Rona Fairhead, Chairman of the BBC Trust, and Elan Closs Stephens, the BBC Trust member for Wales introduced the event. Rona highlighted some of the work which the Trust had been carrying out with audiences as part of the Charter review process. Elan gave an overview of the important role which the BBC had played in Wales over the years.

The format of the event was a panel discussing some of the issues which the UK Government had asked in the DMCS Charter Green Paper, and then inviting attendees to join in the discussion.

On the panel, Elan was joined by Professor Justin Lewis, Professor of Communication, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies; James Purnell, the BBC’s Director, Strategy and Digital; Paul Islwyn Thomas, a broadcast consultant and Executive Producer; and Jane Tranter, CEO of Bad Wolf Productions.

Many issues were discussed by the panel including the scale and scope of the BBC, providing high-quality distinctive programming and services, and the importance of ensuring the correct representation of devolved nations and accountability to devolved Parliaments and assemblies in any new governance system.

You can watch the panel discussion here:

Much of the discussion from the floor focussed on broadcasting in Wales and how best to serve audiences in Wales. It was pointed out the broadcasting landscape in Wales meant that that the BBC had a particularly important role to play as a public service broadcaster in a devolved nation.

It was acknowledged that the success of programmes such as Dr Who and Torchwood had created a centre of excellence for drama in Wales. However, the next step was to ensure that this was used to create an authentic portrayal of life in modern Wales. Attendees noted that despite many high-quality factual programmes having been made by programme makers based in Wales, the current commissioning structure meant that outside of drama it was difficult to get Welsh commissions onto network television. A radical rethink of how commissioning operated across the BBC was needed, with some element of devolution in the process. The BBC must find ways of using established and new talent within Wales to tell stories which resonate within Wales and also to the rest of the UK.

One of the key discussions was about the provision of English language programming made in Wales for audiences in Wales. Attendees said that there had been a significant reduction in the funding for locally produced programmes for local audiences over the last ten years, which had resulted in a lack of portrayal of the nation to itself. The BBC had acknowledged that this was a problem but had not come up with a solution – and these programmes were important to audiences in Wales, and were a key way of maintaining and developing on-air and off-air talent.

You can watch the discussion in full here:

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