Category Archives: Media

orwell

The Ministry of Truth

“Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.”

Ai Weiwei

There is something very odd going on in the reporting of Welsh rugby.

Back in January, BBC Wales ran a Scrum V special on the current crisis. A number of Gwladers were there . Those present felt that the edited, broadcast version of the programme – which went out some 6 hours after it was recorded – gave a misleading impression of the tone of the debate.

The feeling was that much of the voluble audience reaction – largely negative reaction to comments made by Roger Lewis, Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Chief Executive Officer – had failed to make it to the edited version of the programme. It was also alleged that passages of the programme which, in the view of some of those present, had reflected badly on Roger Lewis had been cut completely. In fact, they felt so strongly about this that they – along with others who were present – wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC Trust and the BBC Complaints Department

The complaint was dismissed.

A specific question raised in the complaint was whether WRU staff or other representatives were involved in the editing of the programme. They were told that they were not. Today, WalesEye carries a piece on comments allegedly made by a member of the BBC Wales sport department staff about interference in the programme-making process.

Those comments concerned the perceived influence of senior BBC Wales figures in removing a respected Welsh rugby journalist – the Guardian’s Paul Rees – from a Radio Wales programme. It is fair to say that Rees has generally been supportive of Regional Rugby Wales’ case in recent months, and it is also fair to say that the programme’s host – Peter Jackson of the Rugby Paper – has similarly tended to support the professional teams.

Nevertheless, WalesEye allege that Paul Rees was “effectively gagged” and removed from the programme’s panel because “…senior management decided his views on the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) were ‘inappropriate.”

Rees was asked, by a researcher for the programme, to outline some of the key points he would make. He was, of course, a member of the panel at the ScrumV debate in January and stated that he would maintain his critical tone. It is alleged that the matter of his participation on the programme was “referred up” to senior figures, after which it was decided to “stand him down” from contributing to the programme.

WalesEye’s source, a BBC Wales programme-maker, is quoted saying that,

“It’s disheartening when you are trying to make a programme that reflects all sides in a debate, to be told that certain things just cannot be said.”

Of course, it is very difficult to prove these things, and I have no personal information about the veracity or otherwise of the WalesEye story and the alleged comments of the BBC programme-maker contained within. The story does, however, highlight a general perception among many of us who are sceptical of the WRUs conduct in recent years that the governing body would like to control the news agenda. 

There is a clear impression that the Western Mail, for instance, has no interest in upsetting the WRU – news of the clubs’ decision last month to call an Extraordinary General Meeting was buried some ten pages into the sports pages. 

Paddy French – former producer of ITV Wales current affairs programme “Wales This Week,” alleged in an April 2012 article  that his programme on the business dealings of David Pickering – a man now into his second decade as WRU Chairman – was prevented from airing by senior ITV Wales executives.

The programme had been due to air on Monday 15 May 2006. The previous day, an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Welsh Rugby Union had decided to recreate the role of WRU Chief Executive Officer, a post which had been wound up with the departure of David Moffett in 2005.

Four months later, ITV Wales’ Managing Director Roger Lewis moved into that new post.

In December of that year, his Head of News at ITV Wales, John Williams, found his way to a new role as Head of Communications at the WRU.

Elis Owen, the ITV Wales Director of Programmes who had made the final decision to pull that edition of the Wales This Week programme, moved into Roger Lewis’ old job as ITV Wales MD.

In 2009, he was appointed BBC Cymru Wales’ Head of Commissioning. 

But of course the world is changing.  Mainstream media is increasingly having to compete with social media (which has led to the thoroughly entertaining spectacle of Western Mail Chief Rugby Hobbit Andy Howell having regular Twitter meltdowns when his ill-researched pronouncements are routinely ripped to pieces). 

Having ignored social media for much of this affair, the WRU seem to have surprisingly changed track. The sudden appearance of an apparently legitimate WRU account on Twitter – @WRUMediaOffice – which seems to owe its existence entirely to propping up the precarious position of the Union’s senior executive – has prompted much amusement.

The account profile notes that it is “Welsh Rugby Union media office. Tweets are for info only”.

“Info” seems to include accusing David Moffett of being “rude” and arguing the toss about the success of the WRU in recent years. Quite why another “official” WRU twitter handle is required to provide info when @WelshRugbyUnion already exists to…um… provide info isn’t explained.

Neither is it explained why the policy of totally ignoring David Moffett and disgruntled clubs – to the extent of sending a security guard to accept the clubs’ letters requesting the forthcoming EGM – has suddenly morphed into arguing with the Twittersphere.

Sorry, did I say “totally ignoring”? I meant “maintaining a dignified silence, with dignity, in private and behind closed doors as we look forward while reflecting on the past”.

Gwladrugby.com recently carried a very detailed article on the travails of rugby in Wales. It was based upon interviews with many people on all sides of the argument, including the editor of this site. 

Today, the WRU have forced us to remove the article.

We don’t want anyone to be pressurised in this way.  We have therefore, reluctantly, today removed the article.

Furthermore, there are rumours galore that clubs who support the calling of the EGM are nervous of speaking publicly, while those in opposition are more than ready to do so. Why would that be? Why would two clubs, with differing opinions, have such different approaches to stating their case publicly?

Perhaps they’re aware of what’s happened to IWRTV, an online TV channel developed through collaboration between former Wales international Paul Turner and Dischro Creative.

They’ve produced a number of very interesting and thoroughly well-researched online programmes in recent months. They also took to showing a few highlights – filmed by their own cameras – of matches in the lower reaches of the Welsh rugby pyramid.

The WRU approached IWRTV, indicated that BBC Wales held the rights to all matches (despite never having shown any interest in broadcasting footage of these games) and demanded of IWRTV not only a business plan outlining their editorial stance, but an additional £200,000 for the rights to matches they had already sold to BBC Wales.

It’s difficult to understand what harm IWRTV were doing. They were showing footage which would otherwise be unavailable, and doing so online. Yet the WRU sought to stifle yet another media outlet.

There may, of course, be nothing in all of this. It’s possible that people are hearing rumours and half-stories, adding them all together and leaping to an entirely erroneous conclusion. I’d like to believe that. 

I’ll finish with a plea. The forthcoming EGM offers an opportunity for all who care about Welsh rugby to meet and to discuss the issues affecting them – from the professional teams right down to the smallest village club. The WRU seem to be keen to persuade clubs to stay at home, to fail to engage with the debate, and to simply hand their votes to WRU President – and chair of the EGM – Dennis Gethin

This matter is too important – to all of us who support the game here – to be treated in this way. Inform yourselves. Build a clear understanding of the issues. Question your club committeemen. Question your district representatives. Question David Moffett. Question what you read and hear. Make your own minds up. And please, turn up at next week’s EGM to engage with the issues.

Ignoring the debate – or, worse still, allowing it to be supressed – will be the ruin of us.

Life-of-Brian

Time to stand up and be counted

Today, David Moffett defied his doubters and marched right up to the gates of the Millennium Stadium with 51 signatures in his red box, more than enough to force the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of all its member clubs.

Moffett, the former CEO of the WRU, will attend the EGM as a newly-inducted member of one of those clubs, to put himself forward as a candidate for election to the board of the WRU.

His campaign can no longer be dismissed as a side show. Nearly a quarter of the WRU’s member clubs have been brave enough to risk the Union’s wrath in order to support Moffett. According to the WRU’s constitution, as far as we can tell (it’s difficult to get the WRU to be open about even the simplest things like the number of clubs who are actually members of the Union), the EGM has to take place within 60 days.

Let’s remind ourselves of the issues which will be discussed at the meeting:

The 9 issues to be raised at the EGM are:

  1. The CEO and the Executive must confirm the League structure for season 2014/15. The new league structure was decided with no direct input from clubs. In recent meetings with the Districts the WRU was informed that the new league structure was unacceptable. The Executive have ignored the clubs and have not provided a viable alternative. To date clubs have not been directly informed by the WRU of their intentions
  2. The CEO and Executive continue paying down debt at a rate that is detrimental to the clubs.
  3. The CEO and Executive have allowed the cost of tickets and management of the ticketing office to spiral out of control.
  4. The CEO and Executive are operating without a proper business and strategic plan that has been communicated in full to all stakeholders.
  5. The CEO and Executive are withholding urgently needed funding to all levels of the game despite reporting £11million in Reserves in FY2013.
  6. Despite a promise from the Chairman, CEO and President have not provided the facts to contradict a ‘scurrilous’ and inaccurate financial expose by a former WRU Group CEO David Moffett, they have not done so.
  7. Since 2007 the CEO and Executive have failed to recognise the urgent need to evolve the Professional, Semi Professional and Community games in line with best practice.
  8. The Board, have themselves, not followed best practice as recommended by the UK Government and the Board of WRU is not fit for purpose.
  9. Despite a document entitled A Manifesto for Change provided to all clubs by former WRU Group CEO, David Moffett, and numerous attempts by him to contact the Chairman, the WRU has ignored its existence whilst belatedly announcing identical strategies many weeks after its release.

In spite of this, the WRU even today tried to claim that the primary issue raised in those 51 letters was “the proposed league restructure.” The proposed league restructure is a big issue for all rugby clubs in Wales, for sure. But it’s by no means the only issue the clubs are complaining about.

The WRU have nearly two months to start spinning their side of the story in an attempt to get enough clubs on side to avoid a vote of no confidence. For a no confidence motion to succeed, it would require at least another 100 clubs to support the 51 who’ve called for the EGM.

There are certainly enough clubs who are sufficiently angry with the WRU’s attempts to wreck the lower leagues, but will they be brave enough to stand up in an open meeting and show their opposition?

We’ll know soon enough. What you can be sure of is this: the WRU aren’t going to go down without a fight. You can expect to see a lot of good news press releases emanating from the WRU’s spin doctor John Williams in the coming weeks, and maybe even an appearance or two from CEO Roger Lewis and Chairman David Pickering on BBC Wales, the WRU’s unofficial PR agency.

Today, even BBC Wales grudgingly admitted that Moffett’s campaign has succeeded mostly through the use of social media. The corollary to that admission being that he has succeeded in spite of the attempts of the mainstream media to suppress all coverage of his activities.

Personally I’m looking forward to the usual ill-informed nonsense from Andy Howell of the Western Mail, who made a complete fool of himself at Moffett’s press conference today. If the EGM vote of no confidence does succeed, we will not only have the relief of seeing the back of the incompetent, self-serving egos at the top of the WRU; we will also have the satisfaction of proving the likes of Andy Howell and his friends wrong once again. It’s been a long battle, but finally it’s starting to feel like it’s one which has been worth fighting.

grass-roots-background

Putting greed before the good of the game

Over the past few months we have watched as Welsh rugby has done its best to tear itself apart. The Regions and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) don’t seem any closer to reaching agreement over the future of their relationship. In fact, they’re probably further away than they’ve ever been.

But this is not the biggest crisis facing our game in Wales. It is what is happening to our community game which should be of gravest concern. Recently, the WRU have been trying to impose an unpopular re-organisation of the lower leagues on their three hundred or so member clubs. This has not gone down well at grassroots level.

Not content with trying to wreck the amateur league structures, driving more community clubs to the wall in the process, the WRU have also decided to set up a series of summer Touch Rugby leagues in direct competition with the successful, independent Wales Touch Association. It seems the WRU are intent on controlling every aspect of the sport in Wales, regardless of whether it’s within their remit, or whether they destroy it in the process.

If this wasn’t enough, the WRU have now joined forces with their business partners, BBC Wales, to stymie another popular independent initiative which had been encouraging interest and participation in community rugby.

Inside Welsh Rugby (IWRTV) started their YouTube channel just over three months ago. A collaboration between ex-Wales international Paul Turner and Dischro Creative, IWRTV have put a lot of time and effort, at their own considerable expense, to produce a series of excellent programmes exploring the issues facing grassroots rugby in Wales.

IWRTV has attracted a strong following via social media, and has challenged the mainstream media by providing a truly balanced view of the current issues facing the Welsh game, as opposed to the skewed, superficial, WRU-friendly fodder peddled by the likes of the Western Mail and BBC Wales. IWRTV had hoped to broadcast footage of community rugby matches from clubs up and down the country, but unfortunately, the WRU and BBC do not want them to do this.

When IWRTV approached the WRU and the BBC to outline their plans for broadcasting grassroots rugby, they were told by the Union and the broadcaster that they would have to pay two hundred thousand pounds and submit a business plan with their editorial stance for the privilege of showing footage of club rugby matches. This is footage that the WRU and BBC have shown no interest in broadcasting themselves.

The BBC have paid for the rights to broadcast rugby from the lower leagues, but their entire output consists of an occasional few seconds of clips on the Scrum V programme on a Sunday evening. Hardly worth £200,000 to anyone. That’s before we ask why the WRU would want to be paid TWICE for the rights to the footage. In addition to the ridiculous price tag demanded by the BBC, the WRU have intimated to IWRTV that they would want to have control over the editorial content of any programmes which were broadcast.

IWRTV have asked the WRU to participate in their programmes, but the Union did not even have the decency or common courtesy to respond to them until the morning of the show. The Union appear to have a deeply paranoid attitude to free speech in the media. If they are not able to control the agenda, then they just don’t want to know. It makes you wonder what they’ve got to hide.

It is very sad that IWRTV will broadcast their final programme this Friday, 16th May, as they are no longer able to sustain production without further funding. It doesn’t have to be like this, of course. In a more sensible world, the WRU and BBC might decide to back IWRTV and invest in showing club games to a wider audience. Surely this would be to the benefit of the whole of Welsh rugby? This leads to another question. If the WRU are not acting in the interests of the game, are they acting in anyone’s interests other than their own?

nev1

Peace in our time?

So the telly deal is done. One of the biggest sticking points in the unholy European rugby war has been resolved. Sky and BT will share the rights to the new, improved “European Rugby Champions Cup.”

It’s been an unnecessarily painful birth. The single most important issue has always been money, and who controls it. We always knew the answer, of course: television. And now the disagreement between Sky and BT is resolved, we have a way forward.

So if the answer was so simple and obvious, why has it taken so long to get to this point? It’s been over two years now since the English and French clubs served notice of their intention to abandon the old European Cup.

It’s important to note at this point that England and France are the countries where the money comes from: that’s where the majority of the chimney pots (and satellite dishes) are located. As I said last week, us Welsh are just spectators at this rugby feast, and we’re not the ones picking up the tab.

The French and English clubs are calling the tune, as they always have done throughout this long and drawn-out process. Now, finally, they’ve got what they want. A fairer share of tournament money and representation.

The important point is that it is now rugby clubs, and not unions, who are in control. But were all the unions digging their heels in? No. It was just the Irish (IRFU) and Welsh (WRU) governing bodies who were, as late as January this year, still clinging to the old order. They’ve failed in their attempt to retain control of the professional game in Europe. It’s quite clear that they’ve annoyed the hell out of their negotiating partners in England into the bargain. “It’s time for the egos and blazers to get out of the way, and leave the business to real businessmen,” has been the clear message from the other side of Offa’s Dyke.

Why would the IRFU and WRU be opposed to the new deal? Well, for the Irish it’s quite clear. They’ve brought very little to the table in terms of TV money and have enjoyed more than their fair share of the proceeds of European rugby. The WRU take the money from TV deals, and pass it straight on to the Welsh regions, who then use it to pay the players they’ve developed and supplied to “Team Wales.” Incidentally, the WRU still declare this money (several million pounds a year) as revenue on their balance sheet, even though it’s questionable as to what they’ve contributed to the generation of that revenue.

“So what?” you might ask. Surely the deal is done, and we can go back to watching the battles on the pitch? Not quite. There’s still the significant matter of the lack of any agreement between the WRU and the regions (RRW) over participation in competitions and the supply of players to Team Wales. That’s quite a big obstacle to get over, especially when the regions are on record as having little or no confidence in Roger Lewis, the WRU CEO and his colleagues.

There is also another challenge hoving into view: the spectre of former WRU CEO David Moffett, who has returned to Wales to mount a challenge to the WRU Chairman David Pickering. Moffett’s aim is to reform the WRU and replace the current board and executive with people who might be able to do a better job of doing a deal with the regions. He’s also very keen on semi-pro and community rugby in Wales getting their fair share of the cash which is sitting the WRU’s coffers. Nobody can argue with that noble aim. Good luck to him.

Whatever you might think of Moffett and his record when he was in the job, he has managed to provoke much-needed debate on the way in which the WRU operates, and the behaviour of the people who run it.

It is quite clear to many of those who have been party to the discussions (if you can call them that) between the WRU and RRW, that a solution to this Welsh problem would be reached very quickly if we could get rid of the egos, vested interests and incompetence at the top of the WRU. If Moffett succeeds in securing that change, then we will have a lot to thank him for.

This crisis is not just about the WRU. During the course of the last few months, the mainstream media in Wales have failed to hold the WRU to account. Of course, the Western Mail have no obligation to provide a balanced view of the issues, but their journalists could at least make an effort to practise their trade competently. Instead, the self-styled “National Newspaper of Wales” has resorted to regurgitating WRU press releases and speculating as to which Team Wales player will be next to sign a central contract with the WRU.  This is not journalism by any stretch of the imagination. It is public relations. The Western Mail now relies upon access to Team Wales in order to fill its pages in print and online. It doesn’t matter how superficial the story is, as long as people click on it, the paper will creep along with a tiny trickle of advertising revenue, staving off the inevitable for a little longer.

BBC Wales, on the other hand, has quite clear obligations, which it has totally failed to meet in its treatment of the crisis in Welsh rugby. We know very well that the BBC and WRU are business partners;  parties to the TV deal which sustains them both. If it wasn’t for the access to “Team Wales” that this partnership affords BBC Wales, there would be hardly anything left of the corporation in Wales. Look at ITV Wales if you want to know what a rugby-less BBC Wales might look like. The WRU are fond of the BBC because they are a free and unquestioning PR department who will say (or more often, not say) whatever the WRU tell them to.

In the absence of proper media analysis and journalism in the mainstream, it has fallen to the likes of Gwladrugby.com and others on social media, as well as the London press, to hold the WRU to account. Whenever this unedifying episode does finally end, we will be left wondering whether the problems in Welsh rugby would’ve been sorted out a lot more quickly if our national media had demonstrated a bit of backbone and basic journalistic skills.

pinocchio-nose-new

Reading between the lies

So, another worrying turn in the continuing battle between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the four organisations it still seems intent on bringing to heel – the professional teams represented collectively by Regional Rugby Wales (RRW). Weeks of quiet on the thorny issue of central contracts are threatening to spark into life over the WRUs apparent decision to compete with the Ospreys for the signature of tight-head prop Adam Jones. 

The four professional teams have long stated that they have agreed that,

The Regions will only play centrally contracted players on collective agreement between all four Regions – as part of a complete structural solution for the future of the game in Wales.”

Their united opposition to central contracts would remain unless the concept formed “part of a clear and proper strategy and agreed framework to achieve long-term solutions for player retention in Wales; and guard against any quick fix, ad-hoc action.”

So when Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton signed a central contract with the WRU on 25 January , on the apparent understanding that he would be placed with his home team the Cardiff Blues, it raised the odd eyebrow.

Defending his decision to put the WRU in direct competition with a Welsh region for the signature of the Welsh captain, WRU CEO Roger Lewis suggested RRW’s opposition to central contracts was nothing more than a bit of playing to the gallery.

He stated, pretty explicitly, that the four professional teams had approached him and said,

“They were unable to contract six players. They needed assistance and help with Jonathan Davies, Rhys Priestland, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton. That’s where it all began and then when the participation agreement wasn’t signed by December 31st we put our minds to it… and thought how on earth can we keep players in Wales?”

Lewis claimed that his hand had been forced by Leigh Halfpenny’s decision to leave Wales altogether and sign for Toulon. Warburton’s agent, Derwyn Jones, was wheeled out to hint that the WRU hadn’t competed with Cardiff at all, but had actually saved Warburton for the nation.

Apparently, the WRU’s offer of a contract led the national captain to

Twice rejecting £700,000-a-year offers from big-spending French clubs. It’s understood he had already turned down one such bid from Stade Francais and last week he rejected another from Toulon after the European champions came back in for him.”

All very laudable, I’m sure. Much of the recent success of the national team has been built on a Partnership Agreement which has kept the bulk of Wales’ international class players at home, and provided national team coach Warren Gatland with access to these players in excess of anything afforded most of his equivalents in the northern hemisphere. Nobody would corroborate Derwyn’s story, obviously, and nobody dug too deeply into it.

Then Scott Williams, Alun Wyn Jones and Rhys Priestland signed for their Regions, rejecting the WRU’s central contracts. Everything pointed to Adam Jones, the last of the six, signing for the Ospreys. Then it all went quiet. A person who is (astonishingly enough) employed by the Western Mail started talking about Jones signing a central contract and playing for the Dragons. Their coach Lyn Jones, a reliable source whenever stories of Ospreys players signing for the Dragons rear their heads, said yesterday that Adam was very close to signing a central contract as negotiations with the Ospreys had “stalled.”

Today (9 April), Adam Jones’ region, the Ospreys, spoke to the Evening Post. The region’s Chief Executive Andrew Hore accused the WRU of

“Continuing to negotiate with Adam Jones and breaking a pledge that they would not compete with them for his signature. We received email confirmation from the Welsh Rugby Union on February 12 that they would not compete with us to sign Adam.”

“We subsequently discovered they were continuing to negotiate with him and have offered him considerably more.”

So that would seem to be pretty clear. The WRU have maybe been less than honest. Perhaps. Well, who knows. I trust them implicitly, of course, but others might not.

Interestingly, and hilariously, Wales’ foremost fearless purveyor of facts (given to him by the WRU) Andy Howell has started pushing a line that I confess to having missed: Wales coach Warren Gatland paved the way for the WRU competing with the Regions last December:

“What happens to players who are not wanted by the Regions and go to France or England but who are good enough for the national team? Do you just discard them? There needs to be a separate group of people who decide on what a fair market value is for players so they aren’t taken advantage of by the Regions potentially offering them, say £100,000 less because they know that player is desperate to play for Wales and doesn’t want to leave the country because he knows he won’t be selected.”

Never one to miss out on an opportunity for a spot of shameless toadying, Howell piles in:

“Say, for example, the Ospreys were only offering Adam £100,000 a year because they knew he was intent on staying in Wales, would it be fair? Not in my opinion because he’s clearly worth much more. I agree with Gatland, an independent panel would need to be formed to decide the market value of players if Gatland’s law was to be enforced, which I believe it should.” 

If the general narrative of today’s shambles is to be believed, it looks as though that independent panel has been formed. I wonder who’s on it? Whatever, we at least know that the six players weren’t wanted by their Regions, despite three of them rejecting central contracts and, er… signing for those Regions.

So it seems that, contrary to an email sent by the WRU to the Ospreys in February, the WRU (or an independent panel, natch) have decided that it’s perfectly acceptable to muscle in and compete with Welsh Regions for players.

The question we should be asking is, “Why?”

Why is it acceptable for the WRU to compete with Welsh Regions for players? What purpose does it serve? I suppose the WRU would argue that keeps players in Wales. Except it doesn’t, really, because it seems likely that both Sam Warburton and Adam Jones would have stayed here anyway.

Does it make better use of the game’s finances? No, because the WRUs actions are driving up the cost of Welsh players, and it’s costing nobody but themselves, the Regions and the Welsh game at large. But it is a handy little wedge which can be used to annoy the Regions and maybe create a few divisions.

It is irresponsible, it is underhand, it is duplicitous. In short, it is entirely consistent with the behaviour of the WRU and Roger Lewis. We are fools for expecting anything better.

 

 

orwell

A Wall of Silence

It’s been two months since BBC Wales broadcast their “Scrum V Special“, a supposed “debate” about the current crisis in Welsh rugby. A group of us who were at the recording wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC expressing our concern about editorial bias in the programme.

The BBC eventually responded:

Thank you for your letter regarding our special Scrum V debate. We are sorry to hear your concerns about alleged editorial bias, the editing process and the interactivity of the debate.

 In your complaint, you raise concerns about the billing of the programme. I’d like to clarify that the programme was never billed  as a “Question Time” style debate. It was planned largely as a panel debate with some contributions from the floor.  The audience was asked if they had any questions they wanted to raise and a number of contributors sent their questions in beforehand. Our presenter saw these questions and he highlighted a few people he could turn to during the debate. As there was a wide range of issues to cover during the course of the 45 minute programme, we could not turn to every individual that wished to ask a question. However, we are satisfied that most of the key issues were raised during the course of the programme.

The audience was selected by the programme team and our aim was to reflect a broad editorial balance of those with a relevant opinion about Welsh rugby. We featured contributions from a regional and grass roots supporters group, a player representative, a legal expert, Paul Thorburn, supporters of Irish and English clubs, Mark Davies and former WRU and Regional Rugby Wales Chief Executive David Moffett. As well as the regional supporter groups, over 180 Welsh clubs were invited to send representatives to be in the audience and those who attended came from Cross Keys, Neath, Canton, Newtown, Penarth and Llanelli. A volunteer referee and people involved in Women’s rugby also attended.

Prior to the recording of the programme, members of the audience were asked to raise their hands, clap and show its reaction politely, but they were not encouraged to boo the contributions of others. The audience was clearly told, both by the floor manager and the presenter, to show respect for speakers and not to shout or barrack.  The reaction and interaction from the audience was important to this debate and we feel it was fairly reflected. The programme was pre-recorded and and it is not unusual that the recording overruns and the programme is edited to time. Some elements of the debate were dropped from the final edit because they weren’t deemed to be as editorially relevant when considered against the programme as a whole. I am satisfied, however, the programme was fairly edited and was impartial, accurate and balanced. 

We weren’t satisfied with the BBC’s response. So we wrote to them again. At the time of writing, we still haven’t received a response. Here’s what we had to say about their response to our complaint:

Thank-you for your response about the BBC Scrum V Special programme broadcast and recorded on 19th January 2014.

We believe your response contains a number of inaccuracies regarding the programme and fails to adequately address a number of the concerns in our original complaint.

For these reasons we are copying the BBC Trust Unit in our reply here.

We must stress that several of us were present at the recording of the programme.

Firstly, you state that the programme was not billed as a “Question Time” style debate. That is not true. I quote from the invitation email from a member of the production team, Cathy Williams:

“The programme is presented by experienced journalist Gareth Lewis (former Scrum V Presenter), speaking to a panel of 4 guests. There will be a chance for the audience to ask questions if they wish, or just listen and enjoy the debate!”

We can confirm that no audience members were allowed to ask questions during the recording of the programme. This is clear from the broadcast version.

Secondly, you state that the key issues were raised during the course of the programme. Whilst it may be true that a number of issues were raised during the RECORDING of the programme, quite a few of the important points raised did not make it to the edited version which was broadcast. For example, at one point, the presenter directly asked Roger Lewis for his view on the comments of Cardiff Blues Chairman Peter Thomas (for clarity, Thomas is on record in the Rugby Paper as saying that the Welsh Regions have “no confidence” in Roger Lewis). Mr Lewis repeatedly avoided answering that question. Most of the exchange on this topic was edited out of the broadcast version of the programme.

You claim the pieces that were cut from the programme were not deemed to be “editorially relevant.” We would strongly contest this view: what we had was a statement from one of the key protagonists in the issue, expressing his lack of confidence in one of the other key protagonists. This kind of statement is clearly relevant to the debate.

Thirdly, you list the various “contributors” in the audience. These included supporters of Irish and English rugby clubs. We were very disappointed that the Irish and English supporters were given more time to speak than the Welsh supporters, when the programme was supposed to be about Welsh rugby, broadcast to a Welsh audience.

Fourthly, you describe the encouragement audience members were given to show their reaction to what was being said in the debate. We can confirm that the floor manager, the bald gentleman with a headset, definitely told the audience that they could audibly show their appreciation or lack of appreciation of what was being said, in whatever manner they liked, and this included booing. He even made a booing gesture with his mouth to illustrate this. The only caveat he used was that we were to show respect and not use any offensive language.

At several points during the recording, the audience loudly expressed their displeasure and derision at the inability of Roger Lewis to give a straight answer to a simple question. However in the broadcast version, the audience’s reaction was only audible on one occasion, when Roger Lewis repeatedly tried to avoid answering a question. Technical shortcomings cannot be used as an excuse, as applause at the beginning and end of the programme was quite clearly recorded.

Finally, you have failed to address our original question about the presence of the WRU’s legal representatives at the TV studios on the day of the recording. We are still very concerned that their presence had a detrimental effect on the partiality of the editing process, and indeed, the entire format of the programme.

In our view, based on the evidence described above, the programme was not impartial and did not address the issues in a manner which was fair to all the participants. Unfortunately, this is only one example of the BBC’s consistently poor and unbalanced reporting of what is the most serious issue to affect Welsh rugby in the professional era. For example, when Regional Rugby Wales recently issued a very detailed critique of the WRU’s negotiation tactics in a letter to the National Assembly (see the RRW website, http://www.regionalrugbywales.com/2014/02/28/response-questions-raised-chair-communities/) this was almost completely ignored by BBC Wales television and radio.

We would appreciate a full and frank response to our concerns this time, and we would be happy to meet the production team to discuss these matters further.