- Take-off delayed… - 30th March 2023
- ‘Bubble, bubble…’ - 29th March 2023
- Ill discipline part one - 28th March 2023
Huge criticism on the internet of Wales’ only national English-language radio station, has focused on the latest record-breaking low audience rates highlighted by The Eye, and how they emerged on the day a new Editor took up her difficult post, showing the enormous task ahead of her, we can disclose.
Apart from underlining the fact that the terrible figures came out as Carolyn Hitt assumed her unenviable position as Editor, outraged listeners on the Digital Spy (DS) online forum, also said that the output on her station, BBC Radio Wales (RW), was “inane” and a “self-parody”.
Another critic made the point about the interesting timing, and said the latest shocking audience figures (RAJARs): “coincided exactly with the new Radio Wales editor (and ex Western Mail columnist) Carolyn Hitt sitting in the editors seat after taking over…”.
As well as setting a new record-breaking low, the RAJARs also revealed that almost 95 percent of the available audience in Wales do not listen to it at all.
Perhaps emphasising the recent difficulties, headline-grabbing ‘Director of Content and Services’ Rhuanedd Richards, had earlier described the new ‘Editor of BBC Radio Wales and Sport’, Ms Hitt, as a “brilliant addition to the team”.
But in the eulogy to her she failed to mention that homosexuality is unlawful in the host nation of the football World Cup next week, Qatar, with a punishment of up to three years in prison, as well as carrying the possibility of the death penalty for Muslims under sharia law. Also conspicuous by its absence in Ms Richards’ praising speech, was that Ms Hitt has also said on Twitter that she votes for the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC), and is prepared to “pick up the ball” for independence, when the news service she is overseeing is meant to be neutral.
Ms Hitt is herself gay, which may make it difficult monitoring coverage of matches there, when Wales have qualified for a World Cup for the first time in 64 years.
Indeed there has been intense criticism of Qatar’s human rights record generally, as well as the background to the World Cup in the country.
However it is difficult to speak out about what is happening, and critics have had their emails hacked.
As Ms Hitt takes up her post the latest RAJARs make plain the scale of the task ahead of her, because they show that the market share of RW is now barely more than five per cent, yet just over 19 years ago the statistic was 8.7 per cent, and even in 2019 it was six per cent, with the awful numbers set against a backdrop of large amounts of money spent on ‘famous’ name hosts.
Mike Flynn, one of the main people fronting programmes at the station during its launch told The Eye: “The people in charge need to take responsibility and resign”.
Past years have been almost as bad for RW. In 2020 the equivalent figures revealed a slight increase on the previous year, but a substantial drop compared with two years earlier, a massive decrease on the year before that, and how more than 40,000 listeners had been lost in one three month period, despite the cash spent on new schedules. They also showed that the total listening hours were 2,667,000, down from 3,074,000 in September 2019 (although up from 2,147,000 in December 2018).
We reported how previously, a former radio executive at the troubled service, had said: “It’s (the audience numbers are) peaking at weekdays mid mornings, with Wynne Evans the only highlight. There’s an over reliance on celebrities who have little or no substance, and the breakfast programme is a disgrace”.
Our own Editor, Phil Parry, who presented the lunchtime programme, Wales at One, the drive-time show Good Evening Wales, as well as the weekly debate series People’s Assembly, for seven years until 2006, said: “I really don’t see how much longer this can go on. This is PUBLIC money we’re talking about after all!”.
But the station has often hit the headlines for unfortunate reasons. Our journalists have been alone in reporting that Ms Hitt’s predecessor as RW Editor, Colin Paterson, had an unwise affair with the presenter Lucy Owen, and the story about it was included in another critical DS comment concerning RW with the message above the link saying “…the record low listening figures at Radio Wales under it’s (sic) current management (were) amplified this year by criticism from former award winning reporters and presenters”.
For many staff at BBC CW, Mr Paterson’s romance with the married Mrs Owen represented a major potential conflict of interest, because officials had commissioned a RW programme fronted by her, called ‘Sunday morning with Lucy Owen’, and media executives both inside as well as outside the corporation have told The Eye that they were worried about their partnership’s possible impact on the process.
Mr Flynn was equally unimpressed by The Eye’s disclosure of this relationship. He told us: “If Paterson has been having an affair with a Wales Today and Radio Wales presenter he needs to be suspended immediately”.
Meanwhile, when Mr Paterson’s former paramour, Mrs Owen, was newsreading on BBC Wales Today (WT), programme-makers used a picture of Brighton Pavilion during coverage of the start of the hugely important Muslim month of Ramadan instead of a mosque, and the mistake was then featured in the Brighton Argus.
One Twitter user complained: “BBC Wales showing a picture of the Brighton Pavilion and getting it confused for a mosque when talking about Ramadan is kind of f****d?”. Another wrote furiously: “Not happy they’ve used a shot of Brighton Pavilion as though it’s a mosque (presumably)”.
Mrs Owen had also tweeted over Christmas 2020 about how she had taken a trip to the beach at Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan, when others were governed by lockdown regulations. She treated us, too, to a video of how she had suffered a “turkey drama” (presumably at her South Wales home) by leaving plastic on the roast, but it cannot compare with the crisis endured by the families to whom she broadcasted every night with the latest lockdown rules. She announced online, as she showed us what had happened: “I left a bit of the plastic on it…”
In the past, Mrs Owen has called a ‘crisis’, as well, wearing odd shoes into the office to broadcast the lunchtime bulletin, and asked whether anyone would notice. She even included for us a shocked face emoji after that comment, and following it Mrs Owen published on Twitter: “Crisis over!”.
Yet she could, perhaps, have focused on the BBC CW website saying the same day that coronavirus/Covid-19 was the biggest cause of death in Wales that month, which many might see as a real drama. This was what she would have read instead of complaining about wearing odd shoes: “The mortality rate rose “significantly” for a second month, to 260 deaths per 100,000 people in Wales. It was also more than twice the rate in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived area”.
The senior corporation executive who she had an affair with, Ms Hitt’s forerunner at RW, Mr Paterson, has been in the news for the wrong reasons too. He posted a video on Facebook (FB) about how he also went to the beach–this time at nearby Ogmore–over Christmas 2020, which he said was “Balmy”.
However the Welsh Government (WG) rules at the time appeared clear enough: “If you are travelling away from home, you should travel to meet your Christmas bubble and return home in the course of 25 December...You should keep taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and this will help ensure that you enjoy Christmas Day as safely as possible.” Travel advice from South Wales Police (SWP) warned people then about going to beaches “you shouldn’t be driving to these places”.
Bizarrely, Mr Paterson had also retweeted details of the lockdown restrictions from his own radio station which covered the Christmas period then.
As critical comments have shown, Mr Paterson’s reliance on ‘celebrity’ in radio programmes has also come under scrutiny. After we reported several years ago that angry listeners had contacted The Eye, once it emerged the programme of singing star and broadcaster Aled Jones was suddenly dropped from the airwaves with RW, came news of a very different sort.
On November 4 in 2017 we showed how new schedules were about to be published by the BBC, but the popular Sunday programme of Mr Jones did not appear. At the time the BBC told The Eye, that they did “make changes to when programmes run”.
But it transpired that the popular presenter would not be on the airwaves at all at the BBC, while the broadcaster investigated alleged inappropriate behaviour more than a decade earlier. The singer and TV host from Anglesey, who found fame at the age of 12 with his top five Christmas hit Walking in the Air, said he was “deeply sorry” for any upset caused but strongly denied any “inappropriate contact”, and a spokesman for Mr Jones said that while the matter did not relate to any broadcast work, he had voluntarily agreed not to go on the BBC while it was investigated.
In a statement, the spokesman added: “Whilst he accepts that his (Mr Jones’) behaviour over a decade ago was occasionally juvenile, as was that of others, he never intended to harass or distress and he strongly denies any inappropriate contact. He is, however, deeply sorry for any upset caused and hopes this matter is resolved soon.” Mr Jones’ spokesman added that the allegations from a single female complainant of inappropriate messages and contact, reported in the Sun, did not relate to any broadcast work, and related to a matter more than 10 years before
It has become clear that more recently there have been problems for the BBC, and the latest RAJAR figures, come at a difficult time, as the corporation has endured heavy criticism over a logo which was unveiled a year ago.
Two network television presenters, Richard Madeley and Susanna Reid, greeted it with derision. “I mean, I can barely look at it“, Mr Madeley scoffed. “Oh, it’s like something from (the hit television comedy series) W1A, isn’t it?”, Ms Reid added.
“The future is so bright I have to wear shades!” Mr Madeley japed ironically on air. “Well, what is the difference? Can you imagine a designer going to the BBC exec and saying, ‘I think you’ll like this’ and them going, ‘oh my God, that was worth half a million’”. He went on to say: “[The BBC] are like Millwall supporters: everybody hates them but they don’t care”. “You can’t say that everybody hates the BBC!” a ‘shocked’ Ms Reid laughed.
It is obvious, though, that the authorities in Qatar HATE the practice of gay sex, because it is illegal, while the woman in charge of overseeing football World Cup coverage from there (gay Ms Hitt), must also face another challenge – that almost no one listens to RW…
The memories of our Editor, Phil Parry’s, astonishing 39 year award-winning career in journalism (including some of the stories he covered during his 23 years at the BBC) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.