Wales

National Library of Wales 'yet to formally meet culture minister'

BBC archive tapes
Image caption Digitised content would be viewable by the public in Aberystwyth and three hubs around Wales

The Welsh culture minister has not attended formal meetings with the National Library of Wales since he took over in 2017, its boss has claimed.

The library receives £9m government support but the relationship has become strained over broadcast archive plans.

The Welsh Government said it had engaged with the library "at every juncture on this issue".

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas has also met some trustees - and the president - informally at functions.

He was appointed deputy minister for culture in November 2017 but has refused to provide £1m of funding towards the new archive until the library changes its business plan.

The national broadcast archive would be based at the National Library in Aberystwyth and would house the entire BBC Wales TV archive, as well as material from other broadcasters.

The library's chief executive Linda Tomos has written to the assembly's culture committee, which has been scrutinising the archive proposals.

Defending the library's business plan, Ms Tomos wrote that it had "provided all information requested by the Welsh Government" and "consistently" asked whether more information was required.

She added that Lord Elis-Thomas had not taken part in traditional six-monthly meetings with the library's president, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, since joining the cabinet.

"The usual six-monthly ministerial meetings with the president have not been held since the deputy minister was appointed," she wrote.

Ms Tomos said "no reply was received" to an email requesting an urgent telephone call between the library's president and Lord Elis-Thomas last summer.

The email, which was sent on 19 July 2018 and which was included with the letter to the committee, is from a library staff member to one of Lord Elis-Thomas's officials.

It asks for an urgent phone call between Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Lord Elis-Thomas following the receipt of a letter from the minister that morning.

What is the National Broadcast Archive?

  • It aims to be a "chronicle of the life of the nation" and "Wales' national memory"
  • The BBC has been broadcasting in Wales since 1923 and it has 95,000 audio tapes, 64,000 video tapes - being digitised - and thousands of cans of film
  • It would join the ITV, S4C and screen and sound archives collected at Aberystwyth
  • Digitised content would be available to view by the public and researchers at the National Library but also at new hubs in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Wrexham.

A Welsh Government spokesman added that staff had met with representatives of the library and the BBC on 18 January, and both organisations "were clearly committed to achieving an acceptable solution to ensure the delivery and sustainability of the National Broadcast Archive.

"While these discussions are still under way, including internal discussions at the National Library and the BBC, it would not be appropriate for us to go into more detail."

The government has publicly expressed its concerns about the financial sustainability of the national broadcast archive in recent months.

At a committee hearing in January, Lord Elis-Thomas said he would call on the BBC to make a greater financial contribution to the project.

While the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed in principle to fund most of the cost of the archive, the project requires the government to commit £1m in order to unlock the rest of the money.

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