The history of the BBC’s regional programming is one of perennial tension between representing and reflecting the diversity of the UK’s nations and regions, and what is often perceived as an unrelenting ‘metropolitan centricity’. Through charting the mixed fortunes of English-language arts television for and about Wales, this article examines how the narrow range of cultural representation available on BBC television is situated within a PSB strategy that continues to regard regional arts as inherently ‘provincial’ and as such, inferior to that of London.
The data and analysis presented derives from a broader study based on twenty-one qualitative interviews conducted with key figures directly involved in the production and commissioning of arts content across the BBC’s television, radio and online services. The accounts provided by these interviewees are also contextualised by analysis of broadcasting policy and internal BBC documents, including the BBC’s annual year books and reports. The article concludes by arguing that if the BBC is to reflect more adequately the true diversity of the UK’s nations and regions, and the distinct arts and cultures constituted within them, it must start by devolving its commissioning powers more equally. Rather than merely shifting centralisation from London to allocated ‘centres of excellence’ such as Scotland in the case of arts broadcasting, an effective public service arts proposition should strive to give greater autonomy and agency to the nations and regions so that they might build their arts strategies in their own image as opposed to that of the capital.
Genders, A. (2019). An invisible nation? The BBC and English-language arts television in Wales. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 16(4), 409-428. https://doi.org/10.3366/jbctv.2019.0492