Yesterday’s First Minister’s questions saw Carwyn Jones give up on the future of Welsh Broadcasting. He told AMs that the UK Government would never give us the funding for a devolved broadcasting system, then later admitted that he did not want broadcasting to be devolved anyway.
So, effectively, Carwyn Jones has facilitated the continuation of the oversight of our media by a UK Tory-led Government that has no interest at all in protecting Welsh jobs in this sector. We only need to look at what is happening with the future of S4/C and the leaked document relating to the proposed cuts in BBC Wales to know that this situation should not be dealt with lightly, and that we need to take our message loud and clear to Westminster about our concern regarding the future of media in Wales.
If Cameron or Jeremy Hunt bothered to watch our First Minister’s questions yesterday, they would be right in thinking that he appears to have given up before the fight has even started. Last week Carwyn Jones told the public that he would write to the UK Government about the worrying plans within the BBC, which appeared in a leaked document in the Western Mail, and I’m eagerly awaiting a response.
Did he raise it at the Joint Ministerial Committee that he attended yesterday in London, I wonder? He admits that he wants to see quality programming in Wales, but in the same breath, he bashes Plaid for seeking to push to devolve broadcasting. And for the record, I don’t think we have ever called for it to be devolved devoid of funding streams, as the Fist Minister has alluded to now on more than one occasion.
When we discussed devolving the youth secure estate to Wales in the previous Assembly, on the Communities and Culture Committee ( it was a One Wales Government commitment, too), we did not discuss devolving the responsibility without a clear recognition of the need for funding to follow this for developments such as new secure buildings or rehabilitation centres. Surely it would be the responsibility of a Minister to be allocated the role of negotiating such deals with the Treasury, and to ensure that Wales has a strong voice in determining how a future devolved responsibility would work in practise, and how it would be driven? Clearly, without pressure from opposition parties, Carwyn Jones will be content with sitting on the sidelines while the leaders of the other devolved Nations make their case loud and clear on the future settlements of their nations.
And so the BBC tell me that the leaked documents that we saw were merely first drafts and that all options must be considered if savings are to be made. It seems that there were no red lines, and that the brief was: anything is possible – or anything should be considered in terms of cuts, including compulsory redundancies to staff. How positive they must feel at this moment in time?
I understand that recommendations of savings will be given to the BBC Trust, that the Trust will then discuss and amend as it sees fit, and this will then be followed by a public consultation in the Autumn. Some will argue that by the time it gets to the public consultation stage it will be too late, and that the shape and nature of the cuts will be more or less decided upon. Others would disagree, and say that this will be an open and accountable consultation. Time will tell, but whatever happens it seems that savings/cuts will definitely have to be made, and this will have an inevitable knock on affect on programming and jobs at the BBC in Wales.
Let’s see what Carwyn has to say for himself next week, and whether or not he will realise that standing up for Wales will take more than one trip down to London and back.