The Conservative AM for Clwyd West has described plans to launch a new BBC television channel for Scotland as an ‘insult’ to Wales.
From autumn next year, a separate BBC Scotland channel will air five hours a night of new Scottish programming on an annual budget of £30 million.
But Darren Millar said the decision made the corporation’s announcement of £8.5 million funding for more English language television in Wales ”seem like an insult”. It followed calls from the Assembly’s culture committee to increase BBC Cymru Wales’ annual budget by £30 million.
Mr Millar said: ”Whilst any extra cash for BBC programming in Wales is very welcome, the fact that Scotland has been given so much more by the BBC really is an insult to Wales. BBC bosses seem to think that Welsh viewers are second class licence fee payers. In the interests of accountability to licence fee payers, the BBC must explain their rationale for such different spending approaches in the devolved nations.”
The plans for the new BBC Scotland channel include hiring 80 new journalists and a new hour-long 9pm news programme, featuring Scottish, UK and international news – although calls for an equivalent bulletin to replace BBC1’s Six O’Clock News and Reporting Scotland have been rejected.
On Tuesday, BBC Cymru Wales said the additional funding would increase English-language programming on BBC1 and BBC2 Wales by 50% – including new comedy, drama and entertainment shows – and support a dedicated BBC Wales platform on iPlayer.
But the chair of the Assembly culture committee, Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins, said while she did not want to begrudge the announcement of more funding for Wales, she said different nations would ”feel rightly aggrieved” about the different levels of investment.
BBC Wales has previously run digital opt-out services for its television networks – BBC Choice Wales was launched in October 1998 and was replaced in November 2001 by BBC 2W, which aired bespoke programming for Wales until cutbacks led to its closure in January 2009.