Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
TUESDAY 6 MARCH 2001
JONES OBE, MS
340. May I add on that point that you have explained
your position as Governor but Anne Robinson's comment created
a lot of unpleasantness and dissatisfaction in Wales. Have you
done anything about it yet yourself?
(Mr Jones) Yes, I have.
341. Can you tell us what?
(Mr Jones) I have brought it to the attention of the
Secretary and asked for comments and whether it was considered
by the producers.
(Mr Hastings) I did not see the particular episode
you were referring to but I can respond to the sensitivity of
what you are saying, given the ethnic connection as well. I have
just two comments to make which might be helpful. The first one
is that we undertook a very important and I think successful sensitivity
programme in 1999 about devolution, which covered every producer,
every reporter and every person, with a significant staff, camera
and microphone presence. Across the BBC staff were not just encouraged
but they were mandated to understand the distinctiveness that
devolution would bring to bear across the language that ought
to be displayed on all BBC servicesradio, television and
on-line. That programme has been very successful. There is a new
awareness and understanding. I would suggest that if you wishand
Roger Jones has already indicated that he has raised the issue
in the Secretary's officemembers of this Committee could
quite independently raise that as a complaint with the BBC. That
would then require it to be investigated properly and judicial
process would be given to it.
(Mr Jones) One further point is that Jeremy Clarkson
also made some unfortunate comments and the Broadcasting Council
has asked me to take those up with particular reference to those
342. Just to pursue that, when you say that
you reported it to the Secretary's office, what is the normal
process that will happen after that?
(Mr Jones) They will view the tapes and look at the
comments and then take it up with the producers.
343. I think it would be helpful for the Committee
if we could be told what response you do receive to your complaints.
(Mr Jones) I will make a point of that and let you
Chairman: Thank you very much for that. That
344. As Mr Ruane has just mentioned, a number
of organisations from which we have already taken evidence suggested
that the overseas perception of Wales is often distorted, stereotyped
and out of date and in many cases people in other countries are
unaware of Wales's existence or believe it to be part of England.
Do you agree with that and, if so, what is to be done about it?
(Mr Jones) Clearly I do not think anybody could say
that for people living in the UK that is an issue. Outside the
UK, particularly in North America, people simply do not know about
the existence of Wales. There is the old cliché about a
radio station in Chicago stating that St David was the patron
saint of whales and dolphins and other sea creatures! We have
that problem in North America. It is a long process to actually
try and take that one through.
(Ms Richards) It is a source of great irritation to
me that people still do not understand that more people are employed
in broadcasting in Wales in the coal industry. That stereotypical
perception still persists. I think, as far as the BBC is concerned,
there are a number of issues that we should already be addressing
and continue to address here. That is partly the way in which
our programmes are broadcast and exploited and sold outside Wales,
whether it is to the BBC networks or internationally. One development
of which we are particularly proud is that of Cymru'r Byd, which
I am sure some of you will be familiar with, which is the first
Welsh language, on-line newspaper. It roughly translates as "BBC
Wales across the world". This is a rolling news service but
it also has features, magazine items and output with regular columnists
and so on. Of course, because it is available on the net, this
is accessible across the world. We have had some very interesting
responses from Welsh people and non-Welsh people throughout the
world to that service. We are particularly pleased thatI
think we quoted some figures in our memorandum to youthe
latest figures show that we are now getting 50,000 page impressions
a week on Cymru'r Byd and a total of two and a quarter million
page impressions since the launch last year. That is a very tangible
way of giving people outside Wales a sense of what is happening
345. At the moment we have a considerable range
of first class, international celebrities that hail from Wales.
Do you think that they have a role in promoting our country?
(Mr Jones) I do, and clearly that applies to the big
film stars. The danger is, of course, that while they were living
in Wales and Wales is such a great place, they probably had to
leave Wales in order to make it in the first place. It is a two-edged
sword. Providing we can getdare I use the wordsthe
positive spin onto that, then much can be done. People attach
importance to origins and this could reflect very well on Wales,
provided that we can deal with the downside of that.
346. How can we encourage them? You work with
these people on a fairly regular basis. How can they be encouraged
to promote Wales?
(Mr Jones) I think various charities in Wales are
constantly beating on their doors, trying to associate them with
things that are happening in Wales. It is a question of dealing
with their hearts and minds. Perhaps Menna, who has more direct
contact with celebrities, could help me here.
(Ms Richards) I think many of them do and they are
already involved in programmes within the BBC and elsewhere. For
us it is a case not only of exploiting those Welsh celebrities
who are happy to work with us and to undertake this kind of promotion,
but of developing a new generation of celebrities, to identify
talent at an early stage and to work with them so that they become
the celebrities of the future. It is a very clear policy for BBC
Wales to identify and nurture talent, so that they become associated
with us and we have a good relationship with them because good
relationships with celebrities are very important. Over time,
as they become more and more well known, they will still maintain
that relationship with Wales and with the BBC in Wales. I also
think there are ways in which we can work together here. Many
of us knowyou perhaps, broadcasters and the Assemblythat
there are events which the BBC, for instance, is involved in,
such as Cardiff Singer of the World, the International Festival
of Musical Theatre, which is being launched next year in Cardiff,
key sports events and so on. If we were able to work together
in partnership to use these events to promote Wales more effectively,
then I think we would all benefit from them.
347. You say that stories about Wales and Welsh
people are included on merit in the BBC World Service's British
News programme and you give some examples of coverage in Wales
and Welsh issues on the World Service. To what extent do you try
to ensure that each of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom
gets fair representation on the World Service and the network?
(Mr Jones) This would be a sore point if I did not
believe that there was a level playing field. It is a very important
thing for me and it is to do with the quality of programming.
I believe that in Wales we produce programmes of the very highest
quality which compare with any other area of our size. However,
scheduling is the other aspect to it. What time are they shown?
What programmes are they shown against? We have been unfortunate
in the past and more and more control over scheduling will come
to Wales. For example, on BBC Two Digital, Wales's own slot, we
will have control over those slots and therefore we will be able
actually to select programmes and put them on the digital network
and command the audiences. I have not answered your question.
It is a very difficult question to answer. We are in competition.
We have got to believe it is fair competition, otherwise there
is no point in being there. If you are not always successful,
then you cannot just take your bat and ball and go home. You have
to be ready for the next ones. We have produced some very good
programmes in Wales, which probably have not performed on the
network as well as we would have expected them to perform.
(Ms Richards) Could I add to that specifically on
your question about representation? I was describing earlier the
Director-General's view of the importance of devolving authority
and investment to Wales, but it is also his view and that of the
Board of Governors that all parts of the UK must be better and
more fairly represented on the networks. Therefore, there will
be an output minimum guarantee for Wales, as there will be for
Scotland and Northern Ireland. I think it is worth reminding the
Committee of some of the programmes that have been commissioned
and are being commissioned for BBC Wales. Some of you may have
seen last Thursday evening the documentary on Ellen MacArthur
and her round-the-world voyage. That was a BBC Wales production.
The fact that it was on peak time on BBC One at 9 o'clock was
a great tribute and it was considered to be extremely successful.
During the next year we will have drama, documentary, factual
and music programming and the Cardiff Singer of the World competition
all shown on the BBC networks, both radio and television. Earlier
this morningas they say, I am delighted to be able to reveal
to youit was announced that Radio 2, which after all is
the most popular UK radio network, has commissioned from BBC Wales
the Voice of Musical Theatre competition from next year for three
successive years, which is a very important and significant development.
As Roger says, the competition is very keen but there is a view
within the BBC that Wales has to have proper representation on
the network and we want that because we are good.
348. Two million people in America claim Welsh
ancestry. There are 300 Welsh societies or St David's societies
around the world. I would have thought there was a market out
there for Welsh stories. Are you proactive in contacting them
about the Welsh angle? Would you deem this inquiry newsworthy?
This is an inquiry into the image of Wales abroad, how we can
connect with Welsh communities abroad and portray Wales abroad.
Would you deem it newsworthy enough to have an article or a radio
programme on it on the World Service?
(Ms Richards) The World Service?
(Mr Jones) I would speak to the World Service. We
have no editorial control whatsoever over the World Service, as
I am sure you are aware. Certainly they will be aware of this.
On Friday of last week the World Service was in Cardiff presenting
their vision for the future. Certainly they know that Wales is
349. Are they proactive? Do they go looking
for Welsh stories? As one-fourth of the nations of the UK, are
we getting a fair crack of the whip, a fair share of the news
(Mr Jones) You and I would say "one-fourth"
but others would say "one-seventeenth". Those are two
ends of the continuum.
350. Are we getting one-seventeenth?
(Mr Jones) We battle. I am not aware it has been measured
in those terms. The answer is that I do not know. We do not carry
out an analysis of Welsh coverage on the World Service. I am not
aware that one has been done. This is probably less critical because
those people who are Welsh and of Welsh societies have access
of course to Cymru'r Byd, which had two and a quarter million
hits in its first year. I think what you are saying is right,
that there all these Welsh societies around the world. That is
a remarkable number of ??pages pressed?? in the first year of
operation in the Welsh language.
351. That is private, is it not?
(Mr Jones) It is part of the BBC offering. It is shown
around the world.
(Ms Richards) It is accessible all around the world.
(Mr Hastings) It is more accessible than the World
(Mr Jones) It is on the net.
(Mr Hastings) This is not a piece of PR puff but the
truth. If our journalists were not proactive, they would not be
BBC professional journalists. It is pretty essential that we bear
that message back to them, just as you as a committee seek to
do that. It might be helpful to the Committee if we undertook,
and we certainly could obtain this, an audit of the specific nature
of Welsh coverage that has taken place in the course of the last
six months and to provide that information to the Committee if
you would find it helpful. Whatever considerations they may have
for the future, we could certainly stimulate the World Service
to think about it, if required. I add the point that the balance
of editorial forces that are bearing down on each programme strand,
editors as well as the specific regional editors for the World
Service or any other part of the BBC from across the UK, is considerable.
There is enormous competition in emphasis and weight of stories
which have to be balanced against each other, as well as the rest
of the world. If it would help members of the Committee, this
afternoon in the Grand Committee Room at 6.15 the Director of
Nations and Regions is presenting a lecture to the Centre for
Reform to which I know every Member of both Houses has been invited.
He will be looking at the issue of devolution at the BBC as a
whole. That will be an opportunity for about an hour's worth of
questions in the House later on today. Those points certainly
could be raised.
352. I would like to link two things really.
Mr Jones mentioned editorial control and you have just mentioned
journalists being proactive and the professionalism of journalists.
During our inquiry we have listened to many people from different
professions in Wales and tourism is an important part which we
have considered. When we visited north Wales recently, a participant
complained that a BBC presenter had actually cross-examined her
on the question of tourism, challenging her on whether tourism
in is indeed important for Wales. She declined to do that. On
the morning that we were meeting in north Wales, I also heard
an interview, on Radio Cymru in this case, in which one of the
presenters said that we were actually looking at tourism and promoting
tourism abroad from Wales. The question was asked, "Don't
we have enough tourists coming into Wales anyway?" That begs
the question: where is this mission to explain and is it fairly
done? I come back to editorial control and what you are doing
(Ms Richards) I cannot comment on an individual case
but, if you can supply the information, I will certainly look
at it and come back to you. I am sure that none of you would expect
BBC journalists to do anything other than be rigorous in their
approach to all manner of issues. That may simply be a case of
an over-zealous presenter in this case. I do not know, so I prefer
not to comment on that. In terms of editorial control, clearly
the guidelines for journalists from the BBC are very clear, not
only in Wales but throughout the whole of the BBC. BBC Wales journalists
are extremely professional and well aware of the BBC's guidelines.
There may be two separate issues here: first, a concern about
a particular issue, which I am very happy to investigate; and,
secondly, the question of BBC journalistic integrity.
353. But you will appreciate that our duty is
to look at Wales in the world, as we are doing, and the participant
who gave evidence to us found that remark quite offensive.
(Ms Richards) Yes, of course, but without further
information about that, I cannot answer in detail. I am very happy
to do so at a later date.
354. That takes me on to a musical question.
You say that the BBC National Orchestra of Wales has not had a
terribly successful record of touring overseas but that the UK
Government could help in this area. What problems has the orchestra
actually faced, what could central government do to help and what
benefits would this bring?
(Mr Jones) The National Orchestra of Wales at the
moment is going through a brilliant phase. It is superb. We are
very fortunate to have Richard Hickcox as our conductor. It is
funded primarily, as you know, by the BBC, together with some
funding from the Arts Council that enables it to do some touring
work in Wales. Fundamentally it is set up as a British orchestra.
It has done touring but touring is extremely expensive and requires
sponsorship. This is where you could possibly help us. We do not
have any large, indigenous, Welsh corporation that can come across
and say, "Here you are. Here is £500,000 or £600,000
to sponsor your tour of Japan". We have toured Japan. Incredibly
I think that was under the sponsorship of Sony and that company
actually paid for that. That was an unusual situation. In the
absence of having huge indigenous supporters, we have to cut our
coat according to our cloth. The money is not there. If central
funds could be made available, then we have a wonderful flagship
to sell Wales. Clearly we cannot do that at a cost to the licence
fee payer. That is our dilemma.
355. You said in your written submission that
central government needs to provide a climate for the expansion
and development of cross-sectoral partnerships; in other words,
bringing in private capital to sponsor the orchestra. What do
you mean by "providing a climate"? Is government policy
at the moment inhibiting that sort of thing happening?
(Mr Jones) I cannot say it is inhibiting. It is not
so much a negative influence that the government policy might
be applying; it is lack of the positive that we were commenting
356. What would be the positive then? What should
(Mr Jones) If you could persuade Treasury to give
us a subvention of X thousand pounds, we have a very good case.
357. That is direct government sponsorship you
are talking about. Your written submission talks about creating
a climate for getting this private sector sponsorship. What could
government do to facilitate that?
(Mr Jones) I cannot be drawn into taxation matters
because I am not qualified to deal with those issues. It may be
that there might be inducements for companies to help this area.
I am not an expert and therefore I cannot comment on that.
(Ms Richards) Might I add this as it might be useful?
What would probably be useful would be a sense of creating a climate
for expansion and development of cross-sector partnerships between
arts organisations in Walesfor instance, the Tourist Board,
broadcasters and so onand private sponsors, so that we
could all benefit from staging events which would allow major
Welsh cultural institutions to be available to audiences abroad.
I think the bringing together of a number of different partners
to create a funding mechanism would allow this to happen and,
in the case of the National Orchestra of Wales, allow them to
358. Why does government need to do that? Why
is that not happening anyway?
(Ms Richards) I think that there has been an issue
in the past about the Welsh Tourist Board in particular, which
was a very strong supporter of the orchestra. Again, I apologise
if I have not got this quite right; it was before my time but
I am very happy to give you the appropriate and proper explanation
later. My understanding of it is that the Welsh Tourist Board,
having sponsored the National Orchestra of Wales, was then prevented
from engaging in activities of that kind. I am very happy to follow
359. Can I ask, following on from what you have
just said, what initiatives you are pursuing to bring forward
Welsh acting talent to the international stage, bearing in mind
that we have a very good college in Cardiff. I declare an interest
as my daughter is a student there. I would be interested in any
initiatives you are pursuing.
(Ms Richards) We have a training partnership with
the Welsh College of Music and Drama, which I suspect is the one
you mean. In the last six months, we have appointed a Head of
Talent, whose brief is specifically to identify talent across
the whole range of broadcasting. This links in with my answer
to a previous question about how to develop celebrities. We have
partnerships, training partnerships and sponsorship partnerships,
with a number of colleges in Wales: the Welsh College of Music
and Drama, the Newport Film School and the Centre for Journalism
Studies at Cardiff University. We are already talking to a number
of other educational institutions in Wales about setting up similar
schemes. We also have work placements at the BBC. We are expanding
our output because of the additional investment in BBC Wales,
so it is extremely important that we generate a whole new generation
of talent from which we can benefit and who, hopefully, will make
a mark elsewhere, too.