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MPs launch new inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting in Wales

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THE WELSH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE has today launched a new inquiry looking at Broadcasting in Wales.

Television remains the most-used news source for people in Wales. 74% of adults across Wales use television for their news, followed by websites/apps and radio. In 2020, broadcast television viewing in Wales bucked a long-term trend of decline and increased for the first time since 2012.

The fast pace of change affecting the sector, with the growing prevalence of streaming services in living rooms, offers both opportunities and challenges to traditional broadcasters. The transition is likely to be leading to broadcasters to examine how their audiences are consuming content and how they can keep up with these trends, while still ensuring continued investment for high quality broadcast output. This has a challenging backdrop in Wales: television channels that offer audiences both English and Welsh language content, such as BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Cymru Wales and S4C, have been experiencing funding cuts in recent years. Among other issues, the Committee will be exploring is whether current funding models for public service broadcasting in Wales are dynamic enough in an ever-evolving sector.

Change is already happening with free-to-air sporting rights. S4C – with ITV in England and STV in Scotland – recently struck a deal with Sky Sports to broadcast the World Cup play-off final between Wales and Ukraine last month. However, S4C is facing a longer term challenge with Amazon Prime securing the rights to the rugby Autumn Internationals and retaining the Welsh language commentary resulting in it behind a pay wall. The Committee will be examining what steps need to be taken by the UK Government, sporting bodies and broadcasters to ensure the survival of free-to-air broadcasting.

This inquiry launch follows the recent evidence session held with S4C, where the Committee heard of the important role smart TVs should have to make the channel visible and easily accessible to audiences. The challenge of recruitment was also highlighted alongside calls for investment in training to ensure the future of independent creative companies.

Welsh Affairs Committee Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, said: “Public service broadcasters in Wales are facing a period of enormous change as more and more viewers choose to stream content through online platforms. Despite pressures on funding and investment, broadcasters continue to deliver high quality and original output in Wales.

“As a Committee, we are keen to identify what can be done to secure the future of public service broadcasting in Wales. Among other issues, we are exploring whether the model for public service broadcasting in Wales is sustainable, and how we can ensure the survival of free-to-air content.”

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Haverfordwest: Fire crews attend kitchen fire in Abbots Close

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MID and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have issued a statement following a house fire in Abbots Close off Augustine Way in Haverfordwest on Tuesday evening (Jan 31).

The statement reads: “At 7.05pm on Tuesday, January 31st, crews from Haverfordwest and Tenby were called to an incident at Haverfordwest.

“There was a kitchen fire in a private dwelling which was extinguished using 4 breathing apparatus sets, 1 hose reel jet, 1 main jet, 1 positive pressure ventilation fan and short extension ladders.

“The Police and Local Authority were also in attendance.

“Crews left the scene at 8.57pm.”

It is thought there were no injuries as a result of the incident.

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Ferry staff concerned over rumours Pembroke Dock to Rosslare route coming to an end

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CONCERNS are growing amongst Irish Ferries staff operating out of Pembroke Dock as rumours continue to circulate that the company is considering abandoning the Pembroke to Rosslare route.

Several sources state that Irish Ferries is to pull out of Wexford (Rosslare) all together.

Several newspapers in Ireland are reporting that Irish Ferries has failed to reply to queries in relation to future of Rosslare route as concern grows among employees

The company has remained tight-lipped on its plans and despite queries by various reporters to both the Irish Ferries media contact and a senior company official in Rosslare, there was no response from Irish Ferries at the time of publication.

A lot of the concern stems from the fact that customers cannot book passage on the Rosslare/Pembroke route beyond May 31st of this year. Potentially this could be related to the expiry of the company’s charter on the ship currently working the route – Blue Star 1.

The Greek passenger ferry, with capacity for 1,500 passengers, 100 freight vehicles and up to 700 cars, was chartered by Irish Ferries in March of 2021. The company has faced a number of issues with the ship and it was detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) as recently as December after failing a safety inspection.

It is reported that in the past couple of weeks, Irish Ferries staff members have met with senior management to express their concerns and have also reached out to their union SIPTU to put them on notice.

The lack of information being provided by the company is certainly not doing anything to quell rumours.

This is not the first time Irish Ferries has caused a stir in Rosslare. Back in December of 2018, the company announced its intention to axe its service between Rosslare Europort and France in a move that wax described as “a kick in the teeth” by locals at the time.

Since then, thankfully, fortunes at the Europort have drastically turned in a post-Brexit landscape with the port now nearly handling up to 40 sailings per week.

However, the routes operating between Rosslare and the UK have seen more mixed fortune. With Stena

Line operating a route from Rosslare to Fishguard alongside Irish Ferries’ sailing to Pembroke, there has been some debate as to whether there is the trade to sustain both routes going forward.

Stena Line’s ownership of the port in Fishguard means its likely to want to hang in there, while back in 2021, Irish Ferries only signed a 10-year deal with Pembroke Dock.

We asked Milford Haven Port Authority for their view on the ongoing speculation. A spokesperson at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “We were surprised by these press articles.

“We are unaware of the basis of them; but we can confirm that we renewed our contract with Irish Ferries in 2021 and continue to provide excellent port services to support this important UK and International trade route.”

POLITICIANS SUPPORT PEMBROKE DOCK

Calls a year ago (Feb 2022) for Wales to have one ferry port in Pembrokeshire instead of two due to declining trade following Brexit would be a “disaster” for the county, a Senedd candidate  said.

Rosslare in Ireland’s January traffic to the UK was down 49% on last January, with freight direct to the European mainland up 446%.

Glenn Carr, general manager at Rosslare Europort in Ireland, suggested closing either Pembroke Dock or Fishguard ports to compensate.

But the Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said at the time that would be a “disaster” and called for Welsh Secretary Simon Hart to “take urgent action” to solve the situation.

“Some companies have chosen to take the sea route from Ireland to the European continent rather than going through the UK’s land bridge,” he said.

“They have done this to avoid the trading barriers which have arisen from our hard Brexit. Mr Hart and his government colleagues need to ‘step up to the plate’ and take urgent action to eliminate these trading barriers before we lose one of our precious ferry ports.”

Conservative Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb also has been calling on the UK Government to “get a grip” on the situation.

“There’s now a big fight on to retain competitiveness and win back business that seems to have been lost out of the Welsh ports since the end of the Brexit transition period,” he said.

“So the UK government needs to get a grip on working out simpler, more effective, streamlined procedures for complying with this paperwork, making it less of a headache for doing business through the Welsh ports between the Republic, the UK and the continent.”

Tina Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire also said both Fishguard and Pembroke Dock are vital ferry ports to our local community and to local businesses.

“Staff at these ferries have worked very hard to provide an excellent service which also benefits tourism and local trade,” she said.

“The government needs to end its trading barriers with Ireland to avoid the catastrophe of one of these ferries closing.”

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Man sadly passed away in hospital following incident in Haven Drive, Milford Haven

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POLICE and ambulance units were despatched to a residential address in Haven Drive, Milford Haven on Friday following a 999 call from a party concerned with the welfare of a male.

Medics attended, and the man was taken to hospital but sadly died the following day.

The air ambulance also attended the incident, landing at the Milford Haven Rugby Club.

A statement was released by Dyfed-Powys Police concerning the incident: “We attended a property in Haven Drive, Milford Haven on Friday 27th January 2023 following a concern raised for the welfare of a man.

“The man was taken to hospital where he passed away on Saturday 28th January 2023.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious and a report will be prepared for the Coroner.”

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