- November 1994 · 457pages · 234x156mm
- ·Paperback - 9780708312735
This text commences with the opening of the Cardiff BBC station in February 1923 and ends with a consideration of the impact of the reforms of John Birt in the early 1990s. It portrays the tension between Head Office and the regions which has characterized the Corporation from the beginning. The role of the Directors General from Reith onwards is examined, with extensive quotations from the archives at Caversham and Llandaf. Considerable attention is given to the war years when the Welsh region was the only part of the BBC to produce a significant number of programmes for its own listeners. The frustrations of the 1920s and early 1930s, caused by the lack of a separate radio service for Wales, were exactly replicated with the coming of television. The establishment of the television service – BBC Wales – is discussed in some detail, as is the way in which Controller Wales used the advent of commercial television to extract concessions from Head Office. The communal tension arising from resistance to, and demands for, Welsh-language television are a major theme of the second half of the book. The government’s decision, in 1979, to renege on its promise concerning the Welsh Fourth channel led to Gwynfor Evans’s threat to fast to death and to Whitelaw’s change of policy – a rare U-turn by the Thatcher government. The continuing role of sound broadcasting is stressed, as is the significance of the establishment of Radio Wales and Radio Cymru. While much of the book deals with the institutional growth of the BBC in Wales, it is constantly concerned to emphasize what broadcasting is fundamentally about: people listening to and viewing programmes. John Davies has also written “History of Wales”.