Posted on April 3, 2017
Paul Carr with Mike Kennedy, 02/04/16 : Merthyr Rising !
Posted on April 3, 2017
On Wednesday 29th March 2017 the Institute for Welsh Affairs held its third annual Media Summit, bringing together academics, industry personnel and other key figures from the media sectors in Wales. Highlighting important issues such as the threat to journalism in a media landscape that is becoming increasingly digital, the future of Welsh language media, and how to create a sustainable workforce for the creative industries, the event allowed reflection on the complex and rapidly changing media ecology that small nations such as Wales must negotiate. Whilst crucial questions for the future of the media in Wales were raised, the third Media Summit also offers the opportunity for some looking back and reflection on where those of us interested in, and concerned about, the state of media in Wales have come from and where we currently are.
Where we are…
I first began to research Welsh media and culture back in 2008 when I took up a post as a Research Assistant at the University of South Wales (then the University of Glamorgan). Since then I have continued to research around topics including celebrity in small nations, the representations of place in television drama, and broader work on the links between mediated space and place and tourism. As part of the University of South Wales’ Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations I have watched with interest how the media in Wales – and our study and understanding of it – has developed over almost a decade. Working primarily on television, it was initially clear to me that, despite the work of organisations such as Cyfrwng: Media Wales Journal and the efforts of those academics researching across different mediums, there was a surprisingly limited amount of academic research. There was also an almost constant need to articulate the importance of studying the media in Wales, especially to those outside of the country who were often unfamiliar with the different media and cultural landscapes of the different UK nations.
Since then, we have seen several key changes. Jana Bennett’s announcement in 2008 of the BBC’s ‘Beyond the M25’ strategy to move production from the centrality of London to regions and nations including studios in Salford, Glasgow and, of course, Cardiff led to the creation of the Roath Lock BBC Studios. As the Centre for Small Nations’ research project on Roath Lock Drama Studios and the Creative Industries in Wales found, the studios were a welcome addition to the landscape of Welsh television drama production due to its ability to contribute to skills and its signalling of a more ambitious and confident era of Welsh production. The presence of Roath Lock, alongside other key organisations such as Wales Screen, has undoubtedly helped attract big budget productions on both the big and small screens. It is doubtful whether ten years ago a Hollywood blockbuster such as the sequel to Jurassic World would be planning to film in the Brecon Beacons this Summer, for example. However, the security afforded to those working in the creative industries remains an area of concern, given the precarious nature of fixed-term contracts and the inevitable ebb and flow of productions in the country. Such issues were discussed at length at the IWA Summit’s panel on ‘A sustainable media workforce’ where the negotiation between the advantages of flexible working and the security of long-term employment was a key theme, alongside debates about improving accessibility to the media and creative industries for those in minority groups. Whilst conscious of these issues, the panel, and the audience however, remained confident that Wales’ success as a small nation also offers opportunities for doing things differently and rethinking how sustainability and security can be encouraged.
Journalism, news media and the ‘democratic deficit’
In the past ten years there have also been improvements in how news media reports on the nuances of politics and governance in an increasingly stratified United Kingdom which sees devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the realities of Brexit become clearer, it remains to be seen how United the Kingdom will truly be. However, recent research from Cardiff University has highlighted how the BBC has made some improvement with their blog for the IWA summit commenting on the fact that there are “more reporters covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and greater clarity in communicating the devolved relevance of policy issues”. Despite this, there are clear threats to the media in Wales. The Media Summit featured a panel asking ‘Will journalistic professionalism survive in Wales?’ which discussed the limits to civic participation. The panel drew further attention to the so-called ‘democratic deficit’ wrought by the decline in circulation of print newspapers and the concentration of ownership by large organisations such as Trinity Mirror. Even as the emergence of local print papers and hyperlocal news offers hope for a changing news landscape, issues over ethics and professional codes of conduct remain. As the panel demonstrated, whether the relatively small press within Wales can truly hold politicians and those in power to account remains a thorny issue.
The future of Welsh language media
The future of Welsh language media is perhaps even more precarious given cuts to S4C’s funding for broadcasting and the extremely limited availability of Welsh-language newspapers. However, S4C’s online strategies have reaped rewards with promising use of its Clic catch-up service and presence on i-Player, whilst social media platforms such as Twitter offer opportunities for connecting with others who speak the language, as well as making visible the enduring use of Welsh in everyday life. The panel dedicated to this topic dealt with these issues, as well as considering the possibilities offered by examining the broadcasting models offered by other minority language nations in Spain and Canada. There is clearly much to learn from countries with broadly comparable cultural and media landscapes, both in terms of English and Welsh language broadcasting. As the Centre for Small Nation’s recent project on Television in Small Nations discovered, there are shared challenges including “less access to talent, fewer capital resources, higher production costs, and a smaller market for advertising and license fee revenue”. However, engaging in knowledge exchange with international partners also allows us to develop approaches to dealing with the tensions inherent in the need for local, regional and national media in an increasingly globalised media world.
Portrayal and representation
As a researcher who has primarily focused on issues of representation and portrayal of Wales on-screen, it was interesting to me to see how little they were really addressed at the Summit. It was touched on in various panels but only really brought to the fore in the Interview between Professor Jane McCloskey and Charlotte Moore, who is currently Director of Content for the BBC. The IWA Media Audit in 2015 identified portrayal as a crucial area for improvement and, in this interview, Moore discussed the importance of the balance between moving production into regions and nations and the importance of the opportunities for increased portrayal that this offers. Similar conclusions were reached by the Small Nations Centre’s project on Roath Lock, which found that those who were involved in it were disappointed in the lack of production of Welsh stories and no upturn in the visibility of Wales across the network. There is, however, cause to be hopeful. At the Summit, Charlotte Moore noted the increase in spend in terms of what is being made in Wales but expressed a desire to still encourage Welsh content from Welsh writers and directors. This, coupled with an apparent desire to contribute a substantial chunk of the extra £8million that BBC Wales will see in its funding to producing content for the network that portrays Wales on-screen, offers some optimism for the future. Given the requirement that the BBC represent all the nations and regions of the UK, it is to be hoped that a new flagship network drama or comedy series reflecting Wales (in all its complexities) can be developed.
Considering the Welsh audience
As we consider where we go next in terms of researching and understanding the state of the media in Wales it seems to me that there remains huge value in turning to those who actually consume and use it – the audience. There continues to be a dearth in audience research about the varied viewers, listeners, readers, or browsers in Wales. The statistical analysis provided in Claire Enders’ fascinating and detailed opening talk on ‘The future of media in Wales’ at the Media Summit tells us much about the demographics of who is engaging but it cannot tell us why. It is seven years since the publication of the BBC Audience Council for Wales report on Screening the Nation that I worked on, and whilst the the IWA’s Media Audit in 2015 offered an incredibly broad and detailed overview of policy documents and existing studies, sustained empirical audience research fell outside of its remit. I would like to urge those of us who are concerned about where we go from here to consider a return to empirical audience research that draws on qualitative approaches – interviews, focus groups, analysis of online discussion and practices. Such methods are labour-intensive and can be costly but, as prior empirical research has shown us, they are key to truly understanding the importance of the media and culture in Wales. For example, my own recent research into the links between celebrity in Wales, the development of creative industries in Cardiff, and audience encounters with mediated figures highlighted the complex links between celebrity, representations and embodiments of national identity, and the ‘value’ accorded to places when media production occurs there and famous people are seen there. By way of closing, then, I would advocate that, in addition to the detailed policy work and industry/academic engagement that those of us researching the media in Wales already undertake, we take advantage of audience research to help us better understand how they people in Wales are using the media that they have, what they want, and why this matters to them.
Posted on April 3, 2017
Dr Ruth McElroy, co-director of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations, comments in the i online on the continuing popularity of British crime drama,such as Vera and Midsomer Murders
Posted on March 31, 2017
Dr Rebecca Williams, Senior Lecturer in Communication, Culture and Media Studies at the University of South Wales, featured on a film about her research on Post-object Fandom. The film was watched by about 500 delegates across 2 conference sites (Manchester and Hull) and live-streamed for online audiences as part of the No Boundaries symposium, 28-29 March 2017.
For further details and to watch the film, please see here.
Posted on March 28, 2017
MAP, the Welsh language student theatre festival led by USW, was featured on S4C programme Prynhawn Da yesterday.
Posted on March 27, 2017
Dr Ruth McElroy, co-director of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations, and Prof. Holly Furneaux (School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff) will be discussing the BBC’s Dickensian series as part of the Cardiff Book talk series on April 5.
The main event will be preceded by a reception with tea, coffee and biscuits at 6.30pm in Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Maindy Road, Cardiff CF24 4HQ.
All Welcome! Book your free tickets via Eventbrite by clicking here.
Tagged: Dr Ruth McElroy
Posted on March 10, 2017
Dr Rhiannon Helled Williams, a FBS member of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations, organizes conference on Welsh-language in the workplace.
Posted on March 8, 2017
As part of our public work, Dr Ruth McElroy, Reader in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of South Wales gave evidence about the future of S4C to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee at the Senedd earlier today.
Ruth was invited to give evidence to the committee as part of her role as Co-Director of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations. Ruth has also provided written evidence as part of the IWA’s Media Policy Group submission.
Evidence gathered by the committee is likely to feed into an independent review of S4C.
Ruth said: “I see that the role of S4C is essential because of the Welsh language and, to me, that seems quite obvious, but it does need to be restated. If the Welsh Government is going to achieve its aim of having one million Welsh Speakers then S4C is going to be crucial in that. We do have other public broadcasters in Wales, but what is different in terms of S4C is the Welsh language and for me that has to be the basis of everything that S4C does.”
See the webcast of the evidence in English and Welsh here:
Posted on February 27, 2017
The Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations has recently submitted a response to the DCMS consultation of Contestable Funding. You can read it here.
Posted on February 2, 2017
Dr Ruth McElroy,co-director of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations, appeared on BBC Online, BBC Wales Today, BBC Radio Wales Good Evening and Newyddion yesterday to discuss a new report by the Welsh Assembly’s culture committee which looks at the broadcast media industry in Wales.
Tagged: Dr Ruth McElroy
Posted on January 23, 2017
Gareth Bonello, a musician and PhD student at the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations appeared on BBC Radio Cymru on Thursday January 12. Gareth discussed his PhD, which is a part of the Welsh and Khasi Cultural Dialogues research project.
Beti George yn sgwrsio gyda’r canwr a’r cyfansoddwr Gareth Bonello am deithio’r byd yn perfformio, a’i ddoethuriaeth ar y berthynas ddiwylliannol rhwng Cymru a Bryniau Casia yng ngogledd-ddwyrain India.
Posted on January 16, 2017
Writer/Director: Margaret Constantas
Composer: Judith Weir
Producers: Margaret Constantas and Philip Cowan
A cinematic opera made up of three allegorical tales set in contemporary Cardiff.
Margaret Constantas, a member of the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations has been working on a feature film project with Judith Weir. It has been selected as a slate of ten for Cinematic, a Ffilm Cymru Wales / BFI / S4C feature film scheme.
Ten teams of Welsh writers, directors and producers have been shortlisted for Ffilm Cymru Wales’ Cinematic feature film scheme, financed in partnership with the BFI and S4C, with additional support from Fields Park Entertainment and Warner Music Supervision.
The slate demonstrates both the diversity of supported talent, and the scope of their stories and styles. Ffilm Cymru Wales representative Adam Partridge remarks, “It really is encouraging to see the breadth of talent from Wales, and to be able to support a wide range of voices and perspectives. The projects range from comedy capers to elevated horror, and even an opera film. We hope there’s something here for everyone!”
Margaret’s work 'Lavish’ is that cinematic opera which is made up of three allegorical tales set in contemporary Cardiff.
All 10 teams will now progress into the development phase, including training supported by the sector skills council Creative Skillset, and led by experienced facilitator Angus Finney, who manages the annual Production Funding Market and Micromarkets in London. The focus will be on both creatively progressing the work, and carefully considering the market opportunities for the supported projects. Training providers include a range of industry experts, including experienced producers Julie Baines (Creep, Triangle) and Emily Leo (Under the Shadow), director Ben Parker (The Chamber, OTM Entertainment), and sales and distribution representatives Jezz Vernon (Port Royal London, formerly of Metrodome) and Deborah Rowland (We are the Tonic).
Posted on January 5, 2017
Professor Diana Walllace (FBS) appeared on Good Morning Wales on BBC Radio Wales on Friday 16 December to discuss Jane Austen’s engagement with social and political events of her day.
Posted on December 13, 2016
The University’s Centre for Media and Culture in SmallNations has celebrated its tenth anniversary.
Dr David Barlow and Professor Steve Blandford founded the research centre in 2006.
Since then, the centre has worked across a wide range of disciplines from creative writing to visual arts, from heritage and performance to media audiences and media policy. They’ve enjoyed working with many arts and media organisations as well as individual academics and artists from across the world.
The Co-Director of the Centre, Dr Ruth McElroy said: “For us as a Centre the value of small nations lies not in stabilising or naturalising or homogenising the idea of the nation; rather it is to question the centrality of nation-states and their historical and ideological legacy in formations of global, economic and cultural power. If the concept of small nations achieves anything it is to make us look beyond the dominant frameworks, to see the world slant so as to appreciate the richness in it. And in so doing, it places people – their cultures languages, identities and inter-connections – centre stage.”
Professor Mette Hjort from the University of Copenhagen delivered a public lecture to mark the tenth anniversary at USW Cardiff Campus, looking at the world cinema as a guiding ideal and the role of small nations. The lecture explored why size and scale should be galvanizing concepts of nationhood and cultural identity in this dynamic and responsive field.
Posted on November 9, 2016
TV Studio, Atrium Building
University Of South Wales
Thursday, 10 November, 7-8pm
This is an opportunity to hear the views of Bethan Jenkins AM, Chair of the National Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on the current state of the media in Wales. Joining her on the panel will be Huw Marshall (Director of Awr Cymru and the former head of digital, S4C), Dr Ruth McElroy (Lecturer in Television Studies, Media and Culture, University of South Wales) and Martin Shipton (Chief Reporter, Western Mail). The discussion will cover a number of topics including the future of public service broadcasting, plurality, interactive media and television on demand. The session will also look at the work programme the Committee has set itself during this Assembly term, in its role in scrutinising the Welsh Government.
The event will be chaired by Tim Hartley, Chairman of RTS Wales.
Simultaneous translation will be available.
RSVP: Hywel Wiliam, email@example.com or call 0798 000 7841