Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
On 15 September the UK Government published a draft BBC Charter and draft Framework Agreement
During recent months the Welsh Government has been fully involved in the Charter Review process, as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed in 2015 between the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the BBC Trust and the BBC Executive.
Our direct input to the Charter Review process has been vital. It has delivered positive progress in a number of key areas which are now reflected in the draft Charter and Framework Agreement. We have worked closely with the UK Government, the other devolved administrations, the BBC and Ofcom to achieve this.
The Charter gives the BBC a much stronger public purpose to reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of Wales and the other nations and regions of the UK. In doing so, it must now also support creative economies across the UK – including the thriving creative industries we have here in Wales. This means that we can expect more and better content and programming made for Wales, about Wales – and in Wales – across the BBC’s services. The BBC's Director-General made a number of important public pledges to Wales in May 2016, including additional funding for improving services and for more dedicated content. We now look forward to these being delivered upon in full. I would especially note the significant savings targets announced by BBC Cymru Wales last week. The new money promised for Wales must be genuinely additional, I do not expect the BBC board to simply return some or all of these local savings to Wales.
In its annual plans, the BBC will have to set out how it will deliver upon its new duties, including improving services for Wales. It is required to report in detail on how well it is delivering against these plans and Ofcom will be able to regulate to ensure the BBC does more; if the goals it sets for itself are insufficient, or if it is falling short of delivering on them. I met with the Chair and Chief Executive of Ofcom on 19 September and it was agreed we will work very closely with Ofcom to ensure that it understands what the people of Wales expect of - and deserve from - the BBC over the next Charter period.
Crucially, the National Assembly for Wales will also now have powers to scrutinise the BBC, to call it to appear before the Assembly and to hold it directly to account - which has been the right of the UK Parliament alone until now. It has always been my view that the Public Service Broadcasters should be accountable to the National Assembly rather than the Government, so I believe this is an important step forward for Wales.
The new BBC board will have a non-executive member for Wales, whose job will be to ensure that the interests of Wales are understood and acted upon by the BBC, from the very top down. The Welsh Government will be closely involved in the recruitment of the member for Wales – and our consent is now required before they can be appointed.
The new Charter provides a renewed commitment to Welsh language services and the Framework Agreement reaffirms the BBC’s partnership with S4C, “working together to observe and safeguard the independence of both”. It also provides a strong financial settlement in relation to the licence fee element of S4C’s funding, which is vitally important for S4C to continue to develop its services.
For the first time, this Charter enshrines the role of the Welsh Government in future Charter reviews, so we are now in a stronger position to ensure that the needs of future generations in Wales are taken into account whenever the BBC’s remit is refreshed.
There are still some areas of detail where we will be continuing discussions over the coming weeks, to agree a final Charter which will deliver even more for Wales. My meeting on 26 September with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley MP, will be an opportunity to speak about these directly and the Plenary debate scheduled for 27 September will allow for a detailed discussion on the content of the draft Charter.