Latest official figures for Wales’ only national English language radio station, where the Editor had an affair with a presenter, show that audiences are at almost exactly the same position, despite the vast amount of money which has been spent on new ‘celebrity-led’ schedules.
The weekly audience ‘share’ for BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) in the third quarter this year is at 5.9 per cent, when the same figure for the beginning of 2020 (before most of the lockdown) was also 5.9.
The ‘RAJAR’ figures show, too, that the ‘reach’ of the potential radio audience in Wales is 14 per cent, which is just one point above the equivalent statistic at the start of last year.
A former senior executive at the corporation told us exclusively: “These figures are a disaster for Radio Wales – there was an expectation that listeners would turn to the station for solace during the pandemic.
“Instead it’s stalled and run out of gas. Sections of the output sound ponderous and unexciting, and the recent loss of the autumn international broadcast rights was a body blow. Colin Paterson has run out of gas as station head”.
Yet Mr Paterson appeared upbeat in the face of these ‘disastrous figures’ today.
He has just issued an internal statement to staff reading: “Radio Wales’s peak audience of the week is 105,000 for Money for Nothing at 10:45am on Saturday, Radio Wales’s peak audience for Monday to Friday is 56,000 for Wynne Evans at 11:00am on Monday, with the five day average peak at 08:30am. BBC Radio Wales’s Sunday audience peaked at 83,000 at 11:45am during Owen Money’s Solid Gold Sunday. At breakfast, even with the shift of audiences to later in the day, Radio Wales Breakfast has maintained its reach.”
But these have not been the only official audience statistics to have created a challenge for Mr Paterson, after they recently sank to a record low during his tenure.
In 2020 the equivalent figures revealed a slight increase on 2019 but a substantial drop compared with two years earlier, a massive decline on the year before that, and how more than 40,000 listeners had been lost in one three month period, despite a huge amount of money being 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) and the market share was just 5.5 per cent.
The story about Mr Paterson’s affair with presenter Lucy Owen, which was revealed by The Eye alone, was included in a Digital Spy (DS) comment about 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”.
But controversies like these are not the only issues which need to be addressed by Mr Paterson.
For many staff at BBC CW, the relationship between him and Mrs Owen represented a major potential conflict of interest because Mr Davies’ officials had commissioned a RW programme hosted 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.
One of the main presenters at RW during its launch, has recently renewed his call for Mr Paterson and his superior, Rhodri Talfan Davies, to resign.
Mike Flynn told The Eye exclusively: “Both of these so called media executives (Mr Davies and Mr Paterson) are answerable to the public who pay their salaries via the licence fee and should resign. But they are frightened to reveal the audience for the abysmal Claire Summers programme that replaced Good Morning Wales (GMW). I would like to know what the real figures are across daytimes and weekends and how they waste over £18 million. It is about time they started to answer a few questions.”
Mr Flynn was equally unimpressed by The Eye’s disclosure of Mr Paterson’s affair with the married Mrs Owen. He told us: “If Paterson has been having an affair with a Wales Today and Radio Wales presenter it brings his management skills in to question and he needs to be suspended immediately”.
When his executive 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 about how she had taken a trip to the beach at Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan, when others were governed by lockdown regulations. Mrs Owen treated us, too, to a video of how she suffered a “turkey drama” (presumably at her South Wales home) by leaving plastic on the roast, but it cannot compare to 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, she has also described as a ‘crisis’ 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”.
Mr Davies’ appointee who she had an affair with, Mr Paterson, has also been in the news for the wrong reasons. He posted a video on Facebook (FB) about how he too went to the beach over Christmas – this time at nearby Ogmore, which he said was “Balmy”.
Yet 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.
Mr Paterson’s reliance on ‘celebrity’ in radio programmes has also come under scrutiny.
After we reported four 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”.
However it transpired that the popular Songs of Praise presenter would not be on the airwaves 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.
Meanwhile today’s RAJAR figures, come at a difficult time for the BBC, as it has endured heavy criticism over a new-look logo which has been unveiled.
Two 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.
But it is plain that this is just one of the challenges now confronting the BBC, as new audience figures appear to undermine the strategy of its RW head, after he embarked on his much-criticised ‘celebrity-led’ changes to the schedule…
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s astonishing 38 year award-winning career in journalism (including some of the stories he covered during 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.