A radio listener who complained to ministers about the “dumbing down” of Wales’ only national English-language station where the Editor has presided over record-breaking low audiences and is having an affair with a married presenter, received a reply almost immediately after our revelation highlighted the fact that he was still waiting, The Eye can disclose.
The email received by the taxpayer was dated earlier this month but received last night from an adviser to the First Minister of Wales (FMW) Mark Drakeford, admitting they had no “regulatory control”, and apologising for the delay.
But the listener remains angry at what he claims has happened to BBC Cymru Wales Radio Wales (BBC CW RW) and plans to respond quoting one of the sentences in the message he received: “The Welsh Government believes that Welsh listeners should be able to access daily, high- quality discussion of the political and current events which shape our lives, from the BBC and other providers”.
His original complaint four weeks ago concerning BBC CW RW says that it is “littered with presenter led record programmes and chat”, and it was sent initially to Mr Drakeford then passed to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism (DMCST) Dafydd Elis-Thomas.
It said: “… The station (BBC CW RW) has lost 47,000 listeners in the last three months and has reached the point where 95% of the country never tune in. Over £18 million of licence payers money funds BBC Radio Wales for little or no return.”
Initially all the taxpayer received in response from the WG was:
THIS IS A STANDARD ACKNOWLEDGEMENT CONFIRMING RECEIPT OF YOUR CORRESPONDENCE TO THE WELSH GOVERNMENT
The fuller response was received much later.
But the Editor of the station he complained about, BBC CW RW (Colin Paterson), has also made headlines. Our journalists have been alone in showing that he is having an affair with the presenter Lucy Owen, who declared the importance of travelling by bus to work in a tweet he has ‘liked’.
The ‘predictive search results’ in ‘Google’ for Ms Owen and her husband Rhodri have been, perhaps, prescient. They have said ‘Lucy Owen Rhodri Owen split’, and knowledge of the affair is widespread in media circles.
Mr Paterson’s performance too at BBC CW RW has been open to question, with the most recent RAJAR listening figures making grim reading for him, coming as they do hard on the heels of those low audience statistics.
They reveal a slight increase on this time last year but a drop on two years ago, a massive decline on the year before that, and how more than 40,000 listeners have been lost in the previous three months, despite the huge amount of money which has been spent on new schedules.
The figures also show that the total listening hours are now 2,667,000, down from 3,074,000 in September, but up from 2,147,000 in December 2018. The listener average per week was 8.2 hours, down from 8.4 hours in September, but up from 6.8 hours in December 2018, and the market share was just 5.5 per cent, down from 6.0 per cent in September.
After these numbers were published, a prominent figure described as one of the main presenters at BBC CW RW at its launch, renewed his call for Mr Paterson and his superior, the Director, 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. But they are frightened to reveal the audience for the abysmal Claire Summers programme that replaced Good Morning Wales (GMW) last May. 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 our revelation of Mr Paterson’s affair with Ms 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”.
Meanwhile there has been a huge shake up in the line up at BBC CW RW as Mr Paterson has struggled to combat the low audience figures. He has described the new line up as a “creative challenge” and the RAJARs have made the scale of the challenge clear, revealing that his station had an average weekly audience of just 317,000 listeners in one three month period.
Among the changes that were announced in a bid to stem the tide of disastrous listening statistics was the new breakfast programme hosted by different presenters on Monday to Thursday, to Fridays and Saturdays.
One contributor to the Digital Spy online forum has said in the past that ‘Breakfast with Claire Summers (which replaced Good Morning Wales [GMW]): “… sounds like a community radio station bloody awful. Woman presenter has a grating voice and is fluffing her lines. Morning news programme should contain news”.
Other BBC CW RW listeners who contributed to the forum were equally scathing about the recent RAJARs. One said: “I do get the impression that Ulster and Scotland do a good job of being part of their country’s internal conversation. I’m not sure that Radio Wales has the same status.”
The Deputy Economy Minister in Wales Lee Waters AM has said publicly he is worried by what is happening and that there should be ‘serious’ and ‘challenging’ journalism, as well as objecting to the decision to drop the GMW programme.
Mr Waters (himself a former producer on GMW) said the changes meant there would be “no serious news programme” broadcast at breakfast time. His comments echo statements on Twitter when he has called for more ‘challenging’ journalism.
He quoted approvingly a call for “… serious, challenging journalism and consistently high-quality radio programmes which make politicians nervous…” He has tweeted to BBC CW after the new schedule was announced: “Really concerned about this – absolutely nothing against Claire, but plenty against magazine format. We need agenda-setting news & scrutiny in this slot. You’re a national public service broadcaster. Where else are we going to get it?”.
The objections of Mr Waters have now been adopted by the Welsh Government.
He has expressed concern at the changes to Ofcom, which is the external regulator of the BBC’s television, radio and on-demand programmes. He said: “We feel that as a public service broadcaster, with a duty under its latest charter to reflect the nations, that they have an obligation to provide serious news and scrutiny. Just as BBC Scotland and BBC network do”.
But BBC CW remains fully behind the controversial changes to the RW schedule, saying it was “committed to delivering news to the widest audience”.
Apart from presenting BBC Wales Today and the RW programme, Mr Paterson’s lover, Ms Owen, also hosts the BBC One Wales (BBCW) consumer affairs programme ‘X-Ray’ with her husband, Rhodri, who it’s predicted she will split from.
She has published a book which raises funds for the Noah’s Ark Charity for the Children’s Hospital of Wales called ‘Boo-a-bog In The Park’.
Ms Owen proclaimed: “The story is about how a little boy gets though a situation that is challenging for him with the help of an imaginary friend. But it’s all about finding any way through a difficult time or situation. It’s been a real family affair, with Rhod translating, and Gabs (eight year old son) came up with idea for Boo-a-bog fun and games at the end of the book. And the link to the charity as well makes it extra special for us. The theme of the story feels a good fit with the charity.”
She has also appeared on stage at the World Book Day (WBD) show.
As Ms Owen might say – it is also an interesting theme to a story that an angry listener to BBC CW RW received a reply from the Welsh Government (WG) complaining that the station was “dumbing down” almost immediately after our piece saying he was still waiting…
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!