No more walking on the air

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Here our Editor Phil Parry looks at the role of unfortunate coincidences in Wales after the radio programme of Aled Jones was taken off air in the same week his career was celebrated on television, and accusations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ were again highlighted by The Eye. 

‘Programmes about famous people should contain ALL the facts’

Earlier he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Cymru Wales TV Current Affairs series he presented for 10 years, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off

Phil on BBC Cymru Wales Today in 1988 – speak and be quick about it!

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.

He has also disclosed why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis.

 

Unfortunate coincidences have a habit of prevailing – not least in Welsh broadcasting.

They can be, well, a little embarrassing.

In the very same week that the career of Aled Jones was celebrated on television, amid accusations of his past ‘inappropriate behaviour’, and his apology, which were not included but which were once more highlighted by journalists on The Eye, came news that his regular radio programme had been scrapped.

It was also just a few hours before the television programme was repeated on BBC Four.

Some BBC Cymru Wales broadcasting staff think there should be more openness

This could just be the normal end of the run, or it could be something more sinister.

As when previous efforts to prise information out of BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) were met with a blanket refusal to provide answers, we simply don’t know.

 

The timing was however, regrettable.

All the public were told, from a BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) producer, was that Mr Jones’ lunchtime Sunday programme was “Sadly our last one but a lovely way to end our series”.

The mystery only deepened if people turned then to the RW website for the series that there would be “No upcoming broadcasts”.

The ‘information’ page of the RW website was no help either, because the reason wasn’t included.

We only knew that this news (or lack of it) was only a few days after the corporation had broadcast the much-hyped television programme ‘Aled Jones at 50’, which completely ignored the fact that The Eye had revealed Mr Jones had also vanished from the airwaves much earlier following complaints about his past ‘inappropriate behaviour’, and that an official had said: “He has apologised… and assured the BBC that there will be no repeat of this behaviour in future”.

In the publicity before the programme there was too no mention of this controversy.

It declared only: “As Aled Jones turns 50, we look back at his remarkable career since making his name as a boy soprano”.

The voice-over for the trail said simply that the programme charted Mr Jones’ career “from boy soprano, to presenter”.

Yet earlier the BBC had a slightly different view of events when he stopped broadcasting at the organisation, and a statement from Mr Jones’ spokesman said he “has given his assurance” that his behaviour “will never be repeated”.

The spokesman stated: “Aled voluntarily agreed to step away from his presenting commitments whilst the organisation (the BBC) conducted a review.

The Eye broke the story about Aled Jones ‘deeply regretting’ his behaviour

“Aled was devastated to learn that some of his past behaviour outside the BBC had caused distress to others. He deeply regrets this behaviour and is very sorry for the hurt it has caused.”

It was added: “Whilst he accepts that his (Aled 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”.

Yet earlier the whole thing had been a bit of a mystery and all we knew was that Mr Jones’ programmes had suddenly disappeared.

A media officer told The Eye that they did make changes to schedules, when confronted with questions about why Aled Jones had been taken off air

On November 4 2017 The Eye journalists showed how new schedules were about to be published by the BBC, but his Sunday lunchtime programme (as from that point) did not appear.

Yet, initially at first, an interesting picture was painted for nosey journalists on The Eye and officials saidthat they did “make changes to when programmes run”.

This lack of information by BBC CW does, sadly, fall into a familiar pattern.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to provide listening figures for the RW programme Good Morning Wales (GMW) (which has now been ditched) were met with a blunt refusal to provide answers.

One angry listener was told in 2010:  “We are not… obliged to supply information…”

Meanwhile the Director of BBC CW Rhodri Talfan Davies, was not ‘accessible’ to me (a word he had used himself) despite the fact I had worked at BBC CW for 23 years.

Phil became angry when he was told he could interview Rhodri Talfan Davies and was then informed he couldn’t

I was told initially 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 official was informed the interview could be conducted over the telephone.

I was then instructed that an interview would not, in fact, be granted.

It was apparently in response to this kind of behaviour that the one time Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns proclaimed on Twitter“BBC needs to be more transparent, which is why I introduced my BBC (Transparency) 10 Min Rule Bill…”

Perhaps more transparency is needed at the BBC…

This was only to apply to every invoice above £500, but many critics of the corporation would like to see more ‘transparency’ right across the board.

Perhaps it should include giving the real reason for suddenly ending Mr Jones’ radio programme.

Maybe a little more transparency is needed!

 

Tomorrow – the Welsh Government minister who wished good luck to a new media service run by man who was investigated by the police, called politicians ‘t**ts’, and made a ‘joke’ about a murdering gunman. 

Book posterThe memories of Phil’s extraordinary decades-long award-winning career in journalism (which included offering information others did not want made public) as he was gripped by the rare disabling neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!