BBC 'committed' to Welsh audiences - James Purnell

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Media captionJames Purnell said it was not about quotas but creative solutions to making improvements in Wales

The BBC's director of strategy said the broadcaster was "absolutely committed to addressing the needs of audiences in Wales".

James Purnell was responding to criticism by the Welsh ministers of a "lamentable" lack of English language drama and comedy for TV viewers in Wales.

He told a media conference in Cardiff "Wales loves the BBC".

But he acknowledged the BBC's spend was lower here than in the other nations.

The Welsh government said it had "real concern" about funding in its response to consultation on the future of the BBC.

In August, First Minister Carwyn Jones called for an extra £30m to be spent on BBC programming for Welsh audiences.

This was echoed by the IWA in its audit on the state of the media in Wales.

The audit found that spending on TV programming for Wales has been in decline since before the 2008 banking crisis, while BBC Wales' English language television service has seen a 27% reduction in hours of programmes since 2006-07.

"Tough" licence fee settlements imposed by the UK government in 2010 and 2015 "threaten" both BBC Wales and S4C, said the audit.

Image caption James Purnell said the BBC was cutting less in the UK nations

The report was published to coincide with the IWA's 2015 media summit, addressed by Mr Purnell.

He said the BBC had reduced overall spend on content while others had not plugged the gap.

But he added that the issue of reduced Wales content on TV was an issue for all broadcasters, not just the BBC.

After praising the spend of network productions in Wales he said "the next challenge was how to crack portrayal" of Wales.

Meanwhile, the IWA also warned S4C risked entering a "cycle of decline" unless its funding was sustained.

The IWA also recommended:

  • A media advisory panel to monitor industry trends should be set up by the Welsh government
  • S4C and BBC Wales should maximise their collaboration, while maintaining distinctive services
  • BBC2 Wales and S4C should broadcast in high definition (HD)
  • Radio 1 and Radio 2 in Wales should carry Welsh news programming
  • The BBC should create a separate iPlayer service for Wales
  • Responsibility for broadcasting should be shared between the UK and Welsh governments
  • A fund to pay for "innovative" online news services should be established by the Welsh government

Analysis: TV, radio, newspapers and online

IWA - media audit 2015 in full

The IWA found Welsh newspaper circulations had "dropped sharply" since its last media audit in 2008, in line with global trends.

However, the decline had been "more than matched by the growth in usage of newspaper online sites".

A Welsh government spokesperson said it did not believe the time was right for a media advisory panel because it was still awaiting the outcomes of the BBC Charter review, "our ongoing engagement with the UK government about S4C" and consideration of the recommendations of the Silk and Smith Commissions on further devolution.

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