Bay TV’s station manager Peter Curtis has been giving evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee at the Welsh Assembly on the pros and cons of news and journalism in Wales.
Speaking to the committee today, Thursday (Jun 22) along with Bay TV journalist Carwyn Evans he painted a bleak picture of news and journalism in Wales and spoke about the disadvantages Bay TV faced in the light of financial constraints and the restrictions placed on them by ofcom. He said that if he were to start the business again he would not have applied for the ofcom licence.
In his opening remarks about the state of news and journalism in Wales Peter said: “The Titanic has hit the iceberg and you are going to hear from people like me telling you what a great job we are doing at rearranging the deck chairs.
He said that the Welsh Assembly should look to the models in Scotland where they have more than one regional channel. Speaking about the state of local and national newspapers he said: “There is no competition in local newspapers they are owned by Trinity Mirror.
Peter also spoke about the role social media is now playing in enabling local news to be broadcast via mobile phones and that similar to what used to be the Papur Bro, every community could have their TV station via Facebook. He said that the rise of social media meant it was a great opportunity for the nation to talk to itself.
It appears that Bay TV is not on a level playing field with other television stations and Peter suggested that the business model they really needed was to be on Sky but that Bay TV could not afford that. He said: “I believe that online broadcasting is the future of all broadcasting. Wales has a disadvantage because we don’t have 4G coverage. This is a fast moving age where nothing stands still.
When asked if Bay TV were working with hyperlocal news sites Peter replied: “Just yesterday we introduced our viewers to Llanelli Online. These are top class professional journalists who set up their site. We cooperated with them on the General Election and the local elections which was very successful. I believe that hyperlocal news gathering is a growth area we are going to see explode. Some method needs to be put together like a Press Association for Wales where they can contribute into a central hub.
When asked about the risks to hyperlocals he said: “You should address that question to Llanelli Online because they are living it at the moment. Every community in Wales has a story to tell. Every community has its local stars, story tellers and budding journalists. We just need to go out and harvest it.
Although the questioning at one point appeared to turn negative specifically about the financial position of Bay TV Peter repeated that he was not in a position to divulge the details of the company’s finances. He was optimistic about the future of Bay TV. When asked if there was a viable financial model for news he said: “If ofcom allow us to broadcast 7.5 hours a week we can continue with our present staff for the foreseeable future. Bay TV needs more investment from a third party to kickstart the brand being sold into the market place. Murdoch has the radio stations and Trinity Mirror has the newspapers. Here we are as probably the only independent owned broadcaster in Wales and it’s tough. We are not despondent and we won’t be giving up. We get great help from people in the business.”
You can watch the full meeting here.