What's happening to the assembly on the telly?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Once upon a time I went for a chat with someone in the assembly's Cathays Park building.
I had to wait a while before the meeting, so I sat in the lobby. It's quite a grand place actually - lots of marble and columns and that kind of guff.
Anyway, my most vivid memory of this little spell was sitting next to a giant screen which, after a while, began broadcasting live coverage of the latest plenary session.
The receptionist, clearly fed up with the likes of Janice Gregory and Eleanor Burnham breaching her peace, stood up and turned it off. And that was that. Even the assembly can't stand to watch the assembly.
So it's no surprise, then, that it may soon be impossible to watch proceedings live on television. S4C2 currently broadcasts those thrilling debates each Tuesday to Thursday when the assembly is in session. But it now has plans to broadcast Welsh language children's programmes instead.
This story appeared in the Western Mail at the beginning of May and Sanddef flagged it up soon afterwards. Then, a fortnight later, S4C published THIS consultation paper detailing three possible ways forward:
• Continue to broadcast the proceedings of the National Assembly during term and fit the new programmes around it.
• Cease broadcast of proceedings of National Assembly and broadcast an uninterrupted New Service 7 days a week.
• Continue to broadcast National Assembly proceedings as at present and also broadcast an uninterrupted New Service 7 days a week using additional and new capacity. (unlikely)
I'm not entirely sure where we are with this at the moment, but I've heard that the service could be moved entirely online. Given the reliability of the assembly's website, this would be a real blow.
Statistically, I wouldn't be surprised if more people watch the Ironing Channel than S4C2's political coverage. So in the end, it comes down to profitability versus public service, and nothing obliges S4C2 to continue to pump out the Senedd's mostly inconsequential drones.
Nevertheless, I'd be sad to see it go - I really like the 'totty' who present it:)
By the way, I'm now off to Paris for the CNN Blog Awards ceremony so I'm afraid there will be no posting until Sunday evening at the earliest.
That means I won't be able to react to Plaid Cymru's National Executive meeting on Saturday or any other minor political events I would normally blow out of all proportion. There are, of course, plenty of other great blogs to check out in the meantime, including THIS offering from the Western Mail's new Senedd correspondent.
posted by Blamerbell @ 3:51 pm,
- At 4:28 pm, said...
"Nevertheless, I'd be sad to see it go - I really like the 'totty' who present it:)"
Haha- i will pass on your regards to Lowri next time i see her!
- At 4:39 pm, Justin said...
I don't see much of an issue really, audience must be very small and quite probably very disproportionate to the transmission cost, pre-schoolers are quite obviously a more viable proposition.
There are obvious social implications to any reduction in accessibility to the Assembly's primary gesture to openness and transparency. Moving to a well developed web platform should be done anyway, the assembly's portal is sucky at the very least so lets not leave this up to them, perhaps something along the lines of C-SPAN would be the way to go? Maybe it's something David Morris-Jones might look at carrying on Capital.tv which I hear on the grapevine may soon be revived.
On the whole it is just a droning murmur emanating from the magical picture box most of the time, but there are a few occasions when seeing live responses to questions really does expose the underlying oft unspoken truth to debates. We need to keep this level of accessibility to the assembly's business, that's without question.
- At 4:47 pm, Silurian said...
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- At 5:07 pm, Ordovicius said...
Glad you brought it up, I was wondering earlier today how things had developed. I prefer option one, of course. I think it's an important service and I like watching it, even if nobody else does.
The Scots have to watch theirs online, but the Assembly webcast is half-arsed in comparison.
Once upon a time I went for a chat with someone in the assembly's Cathays Park building.
Our Whitehall and Downing bStreet rolled into one, but does it have its own name, I'd like to know?
Good luck in Paris. At least when you next blog the coalition speculation will be over (famous last words)
- At 5:28 pm, Clear Red Water said...
I think there is a wider debate to be had regarding how S4C is funded. I think as a partly publicly funded body it should be far more transparent with regards viewing figures. Digital switchover will drive down viewing figures further, because many welsh people will be able to get channel four or S4C.
There must not be too much money being thrown at things for purely political correctness reasons. Now before i have my head chopped off i am purely talking about whether it is viable to have public money being wasted on things with such low figures.
I would suggest perhaps looking at BBC Parliament having a welsh programme. Thus viewers will get the programmes that BBC Parliament provides- but also with the assembly being shown- dragons eye, maniffesto. The red button can make all these bi lingual. Essentially it would be one political resource under one roof, and the less viewed programmes can be sustained.
For better or for worse all media channels must remain commercially viable and this should be no different to S4C and S4C2. At least if they came forward with their viewing figures we could begin the debate...
- At 5:30 pm, Clear Red Water said...
I know BBC parliament already shows dragons eye and first minsiters questions posthumously, but i think S4C2 is the wrong vehicle to expose people to the assembly...
We should have a 'today in the parliament/senedd' on BBC 1 Wales and BBC Radio Wales.
- At 5:32 pm, Ian said...
Personally, I want S4C to target Planet Plant Bach from 5-7pm on weekdays. This is when I spend time with my pre-school sprog and the only TV option we have is CEEBEEBIES.
Best of luck in Paris and I strongly suspect that you will text your sis to find out the result of the Plaid NEC, which is a bit sad really.
- At 6:25 pm, said...
Incidentally, why, when I watch the Assembly live on S4C2, does all the Welsh get drowned out by the voice of a translator? I have no problem with translation, but it would be nice to have the choice: can't I have "dub into English" on the red button or something, the way you can drop in and out of different commentaries watching the rugby? (On Scrum V you can often switch between their commentary, Radio Cymru, and occasionally Radio Ulster or Radio Scotland.)
- At 6:33 pm, Ordovicius said...
Well, sticking to the point rather than resurrecting pre-S4C Thatcherite ideas about the language, the essential thing here is to keep the Assembly broadcasts live.
Of course, an S4C3 would be ideal for sprogs, and also for adults who'd like to keep clear of sprog TV, but as BB says, it's unlikely. And that's what Ofcom themselves think.
Again my preference is option 1, as there is plenty of morning and afternoon time free for kiddy programmes. Including assembly free summers etc.
The end of terrestrial will free S4C from the cost of broadcasting on terrestrial, so that may help.
I have to say that the current situation on S4C2 does seem to me to be a waste of extensive and empty time slots.
- At 6:35 pm, Ordovicius said...
Incidentally, why, when I watch the Assembly live on S4C2, does all the Welsh get drowned out by the voice of a translator? I have no problem with translation, but it would be nice to have the choice:
There is a choice. You have to change the preferred language settings to Welsh. This works both on Sky and digiboxes.
- At 9:09 pm, Dafydd said...
On satellite, there is no problem with capacity so the Assembly could setup and pay for its own channel (coverage provided by the BBC as it is now). On Freeview, nothing is going to happen until 2009 with digital switchover, which will itself free-up space with some reorganisation of the digital multiplexes.
Since it's the UK government that will decide what they do with they spare terrestrial capacity after switchover, you might expect some foresight (ok maybe not) and they'd reserve a UK-wide multiplex (enough for 5 or 6 channels) to cover the Commons/Lords/Senedd/Scottish Parliament/NI Assembly.
- At 10:28 pm, said...
I have to say that this blog has done more for media coverage of the Assembly than the Western Mail or the BBC or S4C. And that's despite the fact that you run it as a piece of Plaid propaganda. I'm sure the other parties would love to have an equivalent blog.
I suppose Plaid's strength is that they're more interested in the Assembly than any of the other parties. 90% of posters here are PLaid supporters, and I suspect 90% of the audience of S4C2 are Plaid supporters.
Still only 22% of the voters, though ;-)
- At 11:50 pm, said...
Blamer asked "what's happening to the assembly on telly?"
Just watched old Rhodders on Dragon's eye and I wonder if he would be Labour if he was a young man in this day and age?
- At 12:02 am, Damon said...
Bon chance en France!
- At 9:23 am, Christopher Glamorgan said...
For those of us that did happen to watch Dragon's Eye yesterday evening, I think you should please take a deep breath as you finish reading this post and accept and follow the three points over the coming months/years:
* Accept that a Plaid-Labour Coalition is likely to happen.
* Mike German will do anything to save his hide before the hunter gets him. Hmm - who is the hunter(s)?
* Tories are not that bad - find one in your constituency and hug him/her at the weekend.
Accept all this and we shall all have no further grey hairs by the end of the year!
- At 9:39 am, said...
Hug a Tory?
That sounds like some sort of fetish club.
Don't assume that the red/green is a dead cert, as Plaid's National Council has still to be tested.
- At 10:41 am, Nwdls said...
The public service benefit of having S4C2 as a Welsh language children's channel far outweighs that of keeping coverage of the Assembly. The potential audience for Welsh speaking kids is vastly greater, than those who wish to watch assembly debates live. There's no contest when you consider that putting assembly debates on broadband would probably increase the amount of viewers they would have. What's the point of having a broadcast if you can't watch it after work? Put it on broadband, on demand, and let the kids have their telly when they want.
- At 11:01 am, said...
To grow the language in English (language) dominated communities, we must use the little Welsh language media we have to promote Welsh learning for children. Our young people are constantly bombarded with English language media from all directions and even world languages such as French and Spanish are suffering from this exposure.
Pre-school children are particularly important as their minds are like sponges at that age and they need Welsh language TV when they are learning the very basics in terms of speech and pronunciation.
As much of Wales now has broadband, surely it is not beyond the ability of WAG to get up and running a better internet viewing service, releasing programming time for the likes of Planet Plant/Bach?
- At 12:01 pm, Ordovicius said...
I suppose Plaid's strength is that they're more interested in the Assembly than any of the other parties. 90% of posters here are PLaid supporters,
Interesting and yet thoroughly incorrect statistics. New here, are you?
and I suspect 90% of the audience of S4C2 are Plaid supporters.
What utter rubbish!
- At 12:13 pm, Daran said...
"and I suspect 90% of the audience of S4C2 are Plaid supporters.
What utter rubbish! "
couldn't agree more. The majority of people in Welsh public affairs certainly aren't Plaid supporters and we as an industry are amongst the most loyal viewers of S4C2.
This issue is too important for childish political tribalism which demeans the real debate that needs to be had.
- At 2:00 pm, said...
"What utter rubbish! "
True. S4C has been the channel of choice for decades for many in Labour area strongholds. Especially in South West Wales.
- At 2:34 pm, said...
Labour has this belief that S4C is run and dominated by Plaid, largely due to a chip of their shoulder about the language & Gwynfor Evans efforts to get S4C.
As more younger Labour voters with fewer language hang-ups have a say, I hope that this perception dies away-eventually.
- At 5:33 pm, said...
I agree with Blamer. Watching the Assembly is like watching paint dry. I blame Ellis-Thomas (Lord). Any sign of real debate and he shuts it down. The former Marek was more lively.
- At 4:55 pm, Christopher Glamorgan said...
Talking about the television, perhaps we should ask Paul Potts (Britain's Got Talent) to perform before each National Assembly proceeding to encourage the viewers to tune in.
Talking of which, wasn't Eleanor Burnham AM a soprano in her day (not that her day is over)? :-D
- At 11:32 pm, Daran said...
"I won't be able to react to Plaid Cymru's National Executive meeting on Saturday or any other minor political events I would normally blow out of all proportion."
A few of your blogging partners have picked up the baton and the peculiar coloured smoke from the Aberystwyth enclave has been remarked upon.
- At 12:48 am, said...
Christopher Glamorgan said...
"Talking of which, wasn't Eleanor Burnham AM a soprano in her day (not that her day is over)? :-D "
Yes, I believe she was. Maybe still sings :)
- At 12:51 am, said...
Lots of rumours going round tonight. You know there's a decision when the drums start rumbling in the valleys.
- At 1:09 am, Ordovicius said...
- At 6:39 am, said...
The fact is that the Welsh Assembly is, objectively, a relatively unimportant institution which thinks of itself as terribly important. Its members are at best mediocre, but generally of poor quality. Its debates are dire.
Everyone recognises this, apart from a relatively small number who have a vested interest in its continuance. That is why people turn it off. It is uneconomical to continue boadcasting it. Keep it off the air.
- At 12:37 pm, said...
- At 12:45 pm, said...
"The fact is that the Welsh Assembly is, objectively, a relatively unimportant institution which thinks of itself as terribly important. Its members are at best mediocre, but generally of poor quality. Its debates are dire."
Now that is something we as voters can demand changes. Those elected obviously thought they were intelligent and passionate enough about politics before putting their names forward, so let's demand they give Wales value for money.
And the same should be demanded of the civil servants who are employed to improve our economy, the NHS and all the other services. Let's hear who they are, how much they are paid (probably much too little) and how it touch they are with communities.