Television Viewers Facing Bleak Future on News Front, Say MPs; Shrinking Coverage Concerns Welsh Affairs Select Committee

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 22, 2009 | Go to article overview

Television Viewers Facing Bleak Future on News Front, Say MPs; Shrinking Coverage Concerns Welsh Affairs Select Committee


Byline: Tomos Livingstone

WELSH television viewers face a "bleak" future of declining national news and political coverage, a committee of MPs warns this morning.

The Welsh Affairs Select Committee says the dramatic decline of ITV Wales is shrinking the already-narrow provision of TV news in Wales.

ITV Wales' parent company has already posted an annual loss of pounds 2.7bn, and could stop broadcasting regional news as early as next year.

The MPs' report says: "In our view there is an existing 'democratic deficit' in the Welsh media, which is likely to be exacerbated by a decline in plurality.

"This is of particular concern as there will be a general election within the next year."

Their findings are the latest in a series of gloomy pronouncements on the future of the Welsh media sector, and echo the conclusions of a similar report from a committee of AMs earlier this year.

With ITV struggling, S4C has suggested stepping into the breach and providing its own English-language news service, an idea that caused controversy, and the MPs - while accepting there are few other serious options - are critical of S4C's decision to keep some details of the proposal confidential.

Several studies, including the Government's own Digital Britain report, have expressed fears over the decline of ITV and implications for news and other programming.

The MPs' report says: "We are disappointed that the lack of diversity provided for the English-speakinWelsh audience has not been identified by the Government, and that there were no concrete proposals along with funding options in the Digital Britain report to meet the short-term identified need."

Elsewhere the MPs call for more programmes to be commissioned for production outside the south-east of England - Wales currently receives 1% of the money spent on non-news network programming.

They also question the standard of political coverage on Welsh TV, suggesting there has "been little real evidence of competition between ITV News and BBC News in Wales". …

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