Providing evidence for improved media policy and sustainable TV production

All media systems must navigate global competition and technological innovation on the one hand, and national regulation and public needs on the other. Small nations are challenged by limited resources, the greater muscle of powerful neighbours, and complex multi-tier governmental systems as in devolved Wales. 

Research conducted at the Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations has provided evidence of failures in UK and Welsh media to adequately build a devolved democratic public sphere at the very point when devolved nations have seen their legislative powers grow. 

Before the Wales Media Audit 2015 was published, the National Assembly for Wales had no designated forum through which to scrutinise media policy. In the Audit the Centre recommended improved monitoring of media in Wales drawing on academic expertise to highlight emerging media developments.

This research-led advocacy for change has helped transform the media landscape in Wales by informing the establishment of the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee (CWLCC) which provides democratic scrutiny of devolved media policy.  

In the final report of the 2016 Parliamentary Welsh Affairs Committee Inquiry into Welsh Broadcasting, several findings cited the Centre’s research, including the need for improved scrutiny of broadcasting and the representation of Wales on screen: “Research conducted by the University of South Wales and the BBC Audience Council for Wales concluded that audiences in Wales value the programming produced in, and representing images of, the country.” 

The research found that such representations strengthen a collective sense of cultural and social identity and that a lack of representation means that important elements of Welsh national life are not being captured on screen.

USW’s research and recommendations also informed the UK Government review of S4C, the Welsh-language public broadcaster. It led to reforms of S4C’s statutory remit, so it better reflects the digital era and serves modern Welsh-speaking audiences across the UK. 

The Centre’s expertise in screen production systems helped secure major new investment for innovation in Wales’ screen sector. Its research and industry collaborations underpinned the creation of Clwstwr – one of only eight UK Creative Clusters – which leverages £1million annually of new investment for Research and Development (R&D) in Welsh screen industries and has supported more than 60 industry and Higher Education R&D projects.

Its media engagement has also improved public understanding of how policy shapes what we see on screen, while offering informed, research-based advice to the regulator, Ofcom.

Photograph: Tom Sparey, The Arborist