Rules of the game

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‘This story about not sticking to the rules will ruffle a few feathers!’

During 23 years with BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW), and 38 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), sticking to rules and watching good leadership have always been central, but here our Editor Phil Parry shows how he has also seen poor examples, as these crucial issues dominate headlines today. 

Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking 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.

Phil, here on BBC Cymru Wales Today in 1988, always knew how important it was to talk to people

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 Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.

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 disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the pandemic played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.


It is obvious to me that good leadership (as well as being seen by those under you to having moral authority by sticking to the rules) is absolutely essential, and I have seen numerous examples during my long career.

Other instances, though, have been less impressive.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stands accused of losing his moral authority by not keeping to the rules in attending a party (and allowing others to be thrown) which appeared to break lockdown controls.

Although he secured for the Conservatives a HUGE majority at the 2019 General Election, after years of political paralysis, he has now blotted his copy book badly.

These matters shouldn’t be joked about

The latest revelations concern primarily a BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) get-together on May 20 2020 in Downing Street, which was held by his Principal Private Secretary.

It’s believed as many as 100 people were there, including Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie.

The businessman Paul Polman has just stepped down as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the multi-national company Unilever, and did more than anyone else to bring sustainable business into the UK mainstream, but messed up badly over plans to base his firm in The Netherlands.

Menna Richards, OBE, was not given her honour for appointing senior executives from her former workplace

Both these individuals brought in people to fill key posts when they assumed their senior positions, but it is unlikely that anyone did so more from a previous employer, than the former Controller (now ‘Director’) of BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) Menna Richards.

Dubious appointments generally at BBC CW have become a subject for our satirical writer, Edwin Phillips.

Ms Richards was Controller of BBC CW (and is the Godmother of the present Director Rhodri Talfan Davies family ties are also apparently important) from 2000 to 2010, and during her tenure staff (including me) watched with incredulity as people were effectively imported wholesale, from her former workplace HTV Wales, or ITV Cymru Wales (ITV CW).

Clearly she is among the ‘great and good’ of Wales, and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours list 2010 for her services to broadcasting, and in the same year she was also named as a board member of the Welsh National Opera (WNO). In addition, she was awarded a BAFTA in 2015 for Outstanding Contribution to Television.

Staff were shocked by what happened

In her early days in broadcasting, Ms Richards had transferred to the independent sector, where she rose through the ranks to become managing director of HTV Wales in 1997.

However, eyebrows were raised at BBC CW when a number of figures from her former employer were appointed to senior roles at the corporation, after she took over as its head.

Toby Grosvenor could smile about the fact there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him for theft

There was, for example, Toby Grosvenor, who left his post at BBC CW under a cloud as Head of Operations in 2005.

Since leaving, Mr Grosvenor has repaid the BBC a total of £315,000 after legal proceedings were issued against him. But the Crown Prosecution Service said that following consideration of files from a police inquiry, there was insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings. He was questioned as part of a South Wales Police (SWP) investigation into allegations of theft in June 2005.

Clare Hudson became a very important figure in television

Another controversial appointment was Clare Hudson, who became Head of Programmes at BBC CW. In proclaiming online the importance of her past, she has written: “I have worked in the media for most of my adult life – first as a print journalist, then as an investigative reporter and producer for ITV, and later as a programme commissioner for the BBC in Wales.  This has given me an in-depth knowledge of how newsrooms and the media generally (operate)”.

Elis Owen was on the way up

There were, though, plenty of other cases.

Elis Owen was Head of Programmes then Managing Director at ITV Wales, but was chosen to become Head of Commissioning at BBC CW.

The senior journalist David Williams moved over to be Political Editor at BBC CW. His career was cemented by exposing the sexual mis-conduct of a senior police officer, and a television programme was made about it.

The documentary which featured him, Cam-drin Plant: Y Gwir sy’n Lladd (Child Abuse: The Truth Kills) on the Welsh-language channel S4C, told about the quest of Mr Williams with HTV Wales, ITV Wales and BBC Cymru Wales to discover the truth about physical and sexual child abuse at care homes in North Wales.

David Williams moved over

The headline-grabbing presenter of BBC Wales Today (WT) and the consumer affairs programme X-rayLucy Owen, (who conducted a contentious affair with the Editor of BBC Radio Wales [RW] when she had fronted one of the station’s programmes) also possesses an intriguing background.

She, too, had worked at HTV.

Lucy Owen has never been far from the news – either at HTV Wales or BBC Cymru Wales

Her former colleague in the independent sector, Nicola Heywood Thomas, was made presenter of the BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) lunchtime show. I was eased out of my role hosting the RW programme Wales at One to make way for her. Ms Heywood Thomas now presents the arts show on RW.

In an article 10 years ago about her busy life, it was reported that: “…she has been meeting her commitments as a consultant with Arts and Business Cymru, an organisation which builds bridges between the arts and business”.

Nicola Heywood Thomas loves the arts

There are others, including the Chief Operating Officer at BBC CW, who still sits on the board, Gareth Powell, and Sian Thomas, Head of Scheduling and Presentation.

Whispering, and critical gossiping within BBC CW soon followed these appointments.

It seems a shame that good leadership wasn’t offered, and that the staff of Ms Richards’ (as with others at the top) believe moral authority was lost…


Book poster

Tomorrow – why apart from a questionable appointments system, Phil must also look at how today the issue of nationhood has become a key battleground, when history shows that it is actually INCREDIBLY complex.

The memories of his extraordinary decades long award-winning career in journalism (including his years at BBC Cymru Wales) 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 it now. The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster

Another book, though, has not been published, because it was to have included names.