Broadcasting your fears

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BBC Wales headquarters at Central Square – almost two years on, staff are grumbling about the delay

Worried staff at BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) have told us of their alarm that they have still not moved into their new £100 million headquarters almost two years after it was handed over, The Eye can disclose.

Following the corporation taking possession of the building in Central Square, Cardiff, the Director of BBC CW, Rhodri Talfan Davies, proclaimed excitedly:  Central Square is all about opening up… the fantastic location means that we’ll be more accessible.

Rhodri Talfan Davies – is BBC Cymru Wales really ‘open’?

“As part of the drive to ‘open up’, inclusion is a key part of the design of Central Square throughout.”

But now it appears many of his staff are deeply unhappy that their own headquarters has not ‘opened up’.

One said:  “This is a complete nonsense. Two years on and we still haven’t moved down there”.

When are they moving?!

Another told The Eye“This is just taking far too long – some of us have moved and some of us haven’t, and everyone is asking ‘when are we going to go down?'”.

Our own Editor Phil Parry worked at the present BBC CW headquarters in Llandaff for 23 years, and said:  “This is an unbelievable length of time.  I thought they would have been in there by now!”.

BBC CW received the keys to the new headquarters in April 2018, and staff were told it would take 18 months to fit out the building, but five months after that date passed, equipment is still in the ‘testing’ phase.  Officials are unable to say when broadcasting will start and the extraordinary delay is having a severe knock-on effect for other broadcasters in Wales, such as S4C which is due to have a number of desks allocated to workers.

It’s ‘a hive of activity’ at the BBC in Wales…

But executives at BBC CW still appear to be upbeat, despite being months behind schedule.

Mr Davies told staff: “On Central Square, we are now in an intense period of testing and training – it’s a hive of activity…”.

But BBC CW have also been ‘a hive of activity’ in not providing information and controversies over them ‘opening up’ do not simply apply to their new building.

The Eye’s satirist Edwin Phillips has made fun of the situation.

Staff at BBC Cymru Wales are worried

Officials have clearly shown their approach in the attitude towards questions about the listening figures for BBC CW Radio Wales (BBC CW RW).

One listener was told: “We are not… obliged to supply information…”.

Officials were also not ‘opening up’ with access to Mr Davies.

An interview with Rhodri Talfan Davies could have been done by phone but it was difficult

Mr Parry, was told by the Press Office in a lengthy email exchange over more than six months, that Mr Davies would be available for interview. Question areas were provided, and the BBC CW official was told the interview could be conducted over the telephone. Mr Parry was then informed that an interview would not, in fact, be granted.

There has also been little ‘opening up’ over revelations on The Eye that a senior executive at BBC CW is having an affair with a presenter, and that it raises serious questions over a potential conflict of interest because officials have commissioned a programme she fronted.
Lucy Owen’s lover Colin Paterson tries to explain his low audience figures to AMs

The relationship of the Editor of BBC Cymru Wales Radio Wales (RW) Colin Paterson with television and radio presenter Lucy Owen, has caused huge disquiet among media people both within BBC CW and without.

Ms Owen has hosted a Sunday programme on BBC CW Radio Wales commissioned by Mr Paterson’s staff.

There has also been a lack of real ‘opening up’ about programmes which have been scrapped.

The popular TV debate series The Hour was axed after a year, and at a cost to the licence fee-payer of about a million pounds, following the controversial decision to close the 53 year-old award-winning Welsh TV Current Affairs programme Week In, Week Out (WIWO).

Lucy Owen on her lover’s radio station website

Yet viewers had described The Hour as “necessary” and even BBC CW officials had admitted to The Eye it “capture(d) the mood of the nation”.

Meanwhile WIWO had won a clutch of awards including at the Royal Television Society, BAFTA Cymru, the Celtic Media ceremony and BT Wales. 

The programme had also been used as a springboard for Panorama episodes, and one of the journalists’ investigations still features near the top of an internal BBC CW document recording the highest viewing figures.

There were plenty of awards for Week In, Week Out

There has been a lack of ‘openness’ too about the fact that the political journalist Aled ap Dafydd became Plaid Cymru’s (PC’s) Director of Political Strategy and External Relations.

This came hard on the heels of the appointment of the former PC Chief Executive Rhuanedd Richards as Editor of BBC Radio Cymru as well as the Welsh language online service, Cymru Fyw, and this too officials were not ‘open’ about.

So it is obvious that ‘opening up’ is difficult for BBC CW – as shown by the fact all the staff have not moved into the new headquarters, almost two years after the corporation took possession of it, and some of them are extremely angry about it.

 

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Articles published in The Eye are written by a team of contributors and edited by the multi-award winning former BBC news and current affairs reporter, Phil Parry.