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Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent

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BBC Wales publishes its annual review today. Here, BBC Wales controller Menna Richards reflects on how 'Doctor Who' and its spin-offs have helped change the way the UK sees Wales, and hails the nation's Tardis-like (bigger than it looks) pool of talent

THERE are some meeting invitations at the BBC you just don't turn down. And so, two weeks ago, I found myself sitting quietly in a chilly basement rehearsal room as David Tennant, Kylie Minogue and Doctor Who writer and supremo Russell T Davies rehearsed for this year's Christmas TV special.

The atmosphere was pretty highly charged. You could feel the excitement and anticipation. And as these three extraordinary talents began to craft another Doctor Who adventure, I couldn't help reflecting on the extraordinary journey BBC Wales has made over the past few years.

Today's BBC Wales Annual Review helps capture and map some of that journey. It's certainly been 12 months of enormous progress, and not just in network drama.

BBC Wales Today is now required viewing for more than a million people across Wales each and every week. Our television programming for Wales - from Coming Home to X-Ray, from High Hopes to Scrum V - is delighting audiences like never before. BBC Radio Wales' audience has hit a record high through its investment in high-quality news and discussion. And if you flick through S4C's recently published annual report, you'll find that half the channel's top 20 programmes last year were produced by BBC Wales.

These are all reasons to be cheerful. But there's no room for complacency either. We know the challenges will come thick and fast over the next few years. For a start, the whole BBC is grappling with a lower than expected licence fee settlement and that's going to mean some tough choices. BBC Wales will certainly not be immune.

As the Audience Council for Wales points out in the review, it is also vital that digital radio services (DAB) are extended to the whole of Wales as quickly as possible. The BBC continues to work with the regulator, Ofcom, to accelerate this process.

Most importantly of all, we know that the expectations and demands of audiences across Wales are changing - sometimes at a breathtaking speed. Some 60% of Welsh homes are already online - and most of these enjoy high-speed broadband connectivity. Some 85% of viewers in Wales now have access to multi-channel digital TV - one of the highest rates in the world. And hundreds of thousands of these digital converts are already enjoying so-called on-demand TV, through services like Sky+ and Virgin Media.

Against that backdrop of audience change, "steady as she goes" won't wash. BBC Wales will need to reinvent itself again if it's going to continue to deliver value to millions of viewers and listeners over the next ten years.

Perhaps there was a time when we'd have found all this rather daunting. Certainly, we know it won't be easy. But I see an energy and self-confidence around BBC Wales these days that tells me we're in good shape for the digital journey ahead.

In fact it goes beyond BBC Wales. I think one of the most remarkable developments over this past year has been how productions such as Doctor Who and Torchwood have helped re-energise the whole creative economy here in Wales.

For far too long Wales had become used to seeing some of its brightest talents disappearing over the Severn Bridge. Now we're starting to see the opposite with the creative industries reporting a queue of talent wanting to come back here. Welcome to Wales, Kylie.

There are certainly plenty of opportunities for the best talent. The scale of BBC Wales' drama output is extraordinary. At the peak of production, our studio complex - best described as a 90,000sq ft drama village housed in a huge industrial unit just outside Pontypridd - is home to more than 400 actors, writers, editors, technicians, designers and producers.

It gives me a particular pleasure that so many of the talents working on these shows are home-grown. From the outset, we were determined to ensure that Doctor Who showcased and developed the brightest and most creative Welsh talent, rather than simply importing experienced production staff from elsewhere.

There are plenty of examples, but Edward Thomas' story is not untypical. Originally from Swansea, he left Wales some years ago to work in the film industry in Europe and South Africa. Now he has returned to Wales to work as Production Designer on Doctor Who and is helping to train a new generation of design talent, many straight out of university or college.

We've also joined with the Welsh industry body Cyfle to create a unique production training scheme, enabling young people with little previous production experience to develop specialist skills by working on both Doctor Who and Torchwood. And the Welsh Assembly Government's creative industries strategy has also grasped the opportunities provided by the "halo" effect from Doctor Who, leveraging the series' profile and success to stimulate growth in the wider TV and film production sector in Wales.

Our ambition is clear. As one colleague at BBC Wales put it, "When the world of television takes a look at the pool of talent in Wales, they should find that - like the Tardis - it is much, much bigger than it looks."

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  • APA 6th ed.: Richards, Menna (2007-07-16). Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent. Western Mail p. 15.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Richards, Menna. "Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent." Western Mail [add city] 2007-07-16, 15. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Richards, Menna. "Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent." Western Mail, edition, sec., 2007-07-16
  • Turabian: Richards, Menna. "Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent." Western Mail, 2007-07-16, section, 15 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_and_Kylie_should_show_the_world_that_Wales_has_a_Tardis_of_talent | work=Western Mail | pages=15 | date=2007-07-16 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 October 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who and Kylie should show the world that Wales has a Tardis of talent | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_and_Kylie_should_show_the_world_that_Wales_has_a_Tardis_of_talent | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 October 2019}}</ref>