BBC news fails to give Wales full coverage
THE BBC’s network news programmes are failing to cover events in Wales, a report is expected to say shortly.
The corporation set up an inquiry last year following allegations that Wales – and the other devolved UK administrations – were poorly served by its UK network operation, such as flagship news bulletins fronted by Fiona Bruce.
But with a full draft of the review expected to be taken to the editorial standards committee shortly, it is understood to have found the BBC is not providing sufficient coverage of UK events outside England.
Two experts specialising in politics and the media were asked to examine the coverage of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on programmes such as the Ten O’Clock News and other bulletins.
With many viewers only getting their news via UK-wide network news programmes, academics found that a lack of Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish stories in the output left audiences with little awareness of events in the devolved nations, particularly in areas of devolved powers such as education and health.
Final details of the study – Accuracy and Impartiality in Coverage of the Four Nations – produced by Professor Anthony King from Essex University, will go before the full BBC Trust in the summer, but its likely conclusions are reported to have worried Corporation hierarchy.
Plaid Cymru last year called for an urgent review of how the BBC delivers Welsh news and current affairs programming.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Adam Price threatened to withhold part of his BBC licence fee saying there was not enough BBC coverage of Wales on news programmes across the UK.
He said at the time that the number of Welsh stories on BBC One’s Six and Ten O’Clock News programmes were “miniscule”, adding that the different health and education systems which had developed from devolution were “not anywhere near adequately reflected by the kind of news that we’re served up by the BBC network.”
The study has been described by Cardiff University’s School of Journalism head Professor Justin Lewis as “the most substantial piece of research there has ever been in the area”.
Professor Lewis, who co-authored part of the study, said UK-wide news programmes had “very little” coverage of Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish politics.
He said: “They say it is not their job to provide this coverage as that is the job of the opt-out news programmes. But if you live in England how much do you learn about your government from the network news? Quite a lot.”
The announcement of the review by the BBC Trust last year followed years of debate, particularly in Scotland, over the possibility of the nations of the UK having their own version of the Six O’Clock News.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond wants responsibility for broadcasting in Scotland transferred to Edinburgh and has set up an independent commission to examine the industry, although there is currently no suggestion similar powers in Wales could be devolved to the National Assembly.
A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said: “The BBC Trust commissioned a widescale review to consider whether the four nations’ differing policies – with regard to both devolved policies and other matters – are properly reflected in the BBC’s network output and whether the BBC provides appropriate coverage of the actions and policies of the devolved administrations and reaction to them.
“The review has yet to complete and includes a number of elements, with research by Cardiff University only one part of the process.
“It will be for the trust to reach an independent judgement based on a wide range of inputs before it publishes its findings and all the evidence it has considered in the summer.”