Scathing Report Slates BBC over 'Striking' Failure to Report Welsh Stories in Its UK-Wide News

Article excerpt

Byline: David Williamson

WALES has been largely ignored by the BBC national news since the onset of devolution, according to a damning report by the corporation's governing body.

An investigation commissioned by the broadcaster's governing body, the BBC Trust, found its news and current affairs coverage did not reflect the transformation that has taken place in Welshpolitics and national life.

The report includes an independent assessment by Professor Anthony King of the University of Essex.

He stated the BBC was "not reporting the new UK with the range, clarity and richness that might reasonably be expected".

Researchers from Cardiff University identified 136 stories on the BBC pan-UK network that dealt with education and health - all 136 dealt with England alone.

None dealt with education or health in one of the devolved nations.

The Cardiff University research found that for every one story located in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales there are around eight from England - excluding coverage of Westminster and Downing Street.

Its analysis of four weeks of reporting found that 19%of stories involving devolution were vague and confusing, and sometimes inaccurate.

Prof King's assessment describes as "striking" the BBC's failure to report Welsh stories on UK-wide news.

He states: "Almost none of the BBC's 2007 election coverage dealtwith Wales in anyway, and of 37 BBC stories that dealt with devolved matters during the four October to November weeks analysed by the Cardiff team, only one related to Wales.

"That story related to the potential banning in Wales of the use of electric dog collars."

Just 2% of stories on BBC television news were based in Wales.

Welsh stories accounted for just 1.9% of radio items and 0.7% on online articles.

Prof King said that Maria Battle, then Acting Children's Commissioner for Wales, had reported concern that a series of online reports had "blurred important distinctions among the policies being pursued in the different nations".

The report is scathing in its account of BBC's coverage of the aftermath of the 2007 Assembly elections, which included coalition negotiations and First Minister Rhodri Morgan's heart operation.

It says: "Only the formation of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition in early July excited amodicum of interest in the network; but, even then, it was reported at any length on the main television bulletins only once.

"With regard to the illness of Rhodri Morgan, the main news bulletins on Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live all report edit, but not a single mention of it was made on the main television bulletins, either on the day he entered hospital or the day after.

"In other words, anyone who relied on the BBC's network bulletins for news of what was happening in Welsh politics between May and July 2007 would have been alerted quite fully to the beginning of the story and also, though far more briefly, to the end of the story but would have been provided with virtually no information about anything that happened in between."

Prof King said he was "worried that the BBC has no way of knowing how well it is performing with respect to covering the new UK".

He added: "We were frequently told that, even if the corporation's performance in this respect is not perfect at the moment, it is far better than it was a few years ago or a generation ago.

"That may well be true; but no one has produced hard evidence to support that contention and the evidence we were offered was purely anecdotal and impressionistic."

The report calls on the BBC to ensure that staff "acquire personal experience of the regions of England and the three devolved nations-not just any experience they may have acquired years ago of the regions and nations as they then were, but experience of the regions and nations as they now are. …