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Role for Assembly in BBC scrutiny

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Welsh Conservatives will today call for the National Assembly for Wales to take on a role in scrutinising BBC Wales’ public service broadcasting responsibilities.

In a debate in the Assembly Chamber, Suzy Davies AM, Shadow Minister for Heritage, will lead a debate calling for BBC Wales output, which relates to the remit of the National Assembly, in areas such as current affairs and Welsh language, to be directly accountable to AMs.

The Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM recently wrote to the Culture Secretary, the Chairman of the BBC Trust and the BBC’s Director General calling for the changes to be considered following the renewal of the BBC’s charter in 2017.

In a speech delivered to the Institute of Welsh Politics in Aberystwyth in October, Andrew RT Davies said it was time for the National Assembly to play a greater role in BBC Wales scrutiny.

Under the plans, Assembly scrutiny would not apply to BBC’s other programming made in Wales such as Doctor Who, Crimewatch and Casualty.

The party will stress that the plans are not about transferring powers from Westminster but introducing dual scrutiny for BBC Wales where AMs can hold the BBC to account in relation to its devolved competencies.

Suzy Davies will argue that BBC Wales has a disproportionate responsibility in addressing the democratic deficit in Wales due to the dominance of the London-based press.

The party will also reaffirm its opposition to the full devolution of broadcasting, warning that without ringfencing, it could fall victim to cuts due to the demands of larger portfolios.

Suzy Davies, who is also the AM for South Wales West, said, “The BBC plays a major role in Welsh life as a provider of up to the minute current affairs, in-depth analysis of our political institutions and quality programming in both our national languages.

“We believe that the National Assembly could complement and enhance the scrutiny of the BBC in devolved areas such as the Welsh language, to help make it an even greater national institution of Wales.

“BBC Wales’ public service broadcasting is an essential part of the daily lives of millions of people, not just in Wales, but in other parts of the UK and abroad.

“We believe that devolving all powers over broadcasting to the Assembly for devolution’s sake would not be the right approach and would actually put at risk the quality local programming, consumer affairs and Welsh language provision that is so closely integrated with the fabric of our nation.

“AMs can provide greater scrutiny of Welsh medium coverage, which in a UK parliament of 650 MPs is not always given the prominence it deserves, because the Welsh language is not just an asset to Wales, it is an important part of the culture of the UK.

“The limited outreach of sections of the Welsh media has been well-documented and this gives the BBC an even heavier responsibility in informing the Welsh public about developments in Welsh life, current affairs in their area and holding their devolved government and legislature to account.

“I hope as we approach the BBC’s charter renewal in 2017 we can debate how the Assembly can complement Westminster’s scrutiny of BBC Wales and help safeguard Welsh broadcasting.”

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