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The inside story of BBC Wales by a former controller raises ‘questions about the role of the BBC in today’s Wales’

The memoir and inside story of BBC Wales by a former controller has raised ‘questions about the role of the BBC in today’s Wales’ according to a prominent broadcaster.

The Broadcasters of BBC Wales, 1964–1990  by Gareth Price, published this week by Y Lolfa, is the inside story of an exceptional period in Welsh broadcasting when an eclectic collection of characters emerged both in front and behind the microphone.

Gareth Price, a former Controller of BBC Wales (1986-90), worked for the Corporation between 1964 and 1990, during the most exciting period of growth in the history of Welsh broadcasting. He spent ten years (1964-74) as a radio and television producer and 16 years (1974-90) appointing, enabling and leading production teams in all their varied activities at the BBC.

‘Gareth Price has produced an admirably readable account of three exhilarating decades in Welsh broadcasting, an account which tracks his rise to the Controller’s office of BBC Wales,’ said broadcaster Huw Edwards,

‘His story is full of absorbing insights into BBC culture, and along the way he profiles some of the biggest names in the business. It also raises pertinent questions about the role and status of the BBC in today’s Wales.’

His memoir is the human story of those individuals who worked through the most exciting period of growth in the history of Welsh broadcasting.

‘Many were an extraordinary mix of creative and often eccentric people making music and writing drama; celebrities in the world of sport and entertainment; or inquisitive journalists reporting on daily events and producing in-depth documentaries’ said Gareth.

‘The memories remain of an eclectic group of people who were attracted to an institution which, in the words of Head of Programmes Hywel Davies in 1962, ‘must be a debating chamber, an exhibition centre, a publishing house, a theatre, a concert hall, a centre which, if near to its audience, can develop the national identity in English and in Welsh.’’ added Gareth.

In just six years, between January 1977 and November 1982, two national radio stations (Radio Wales and Radio Cymru) and S4C were launched, leading to the simultaneous relaunch of a BBC Wales TV service devoid of the Welsh language.

By 1982, BBC Wales had grown to become the largest BBC operation outside London.

Gareth recalls the tensions between BBC Wales and S4C in the run-up to S4C’s launch as well as the difficulties in selling programmes with Welsh content to London controllers.

As well as recounting the work of high profile and creative colleagues, Gareth Price recalls events which shaped Wales and the BBC during this time, such as the anguish of Aberfan in 1966; a surge of national pride created by great Welsh rugby teams of the 1970s and the sadness and suff ering as King Coal died a slow death during and after the last great strike of 1984–5.

‘Mine is a social history of a specific era and the personalities who enlarged and revolutionised the broadcasting landscape of Wales.’ added Gareth.

Gareth Price was educated in Aberaeron and at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, before becoming an assistant lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast. He joined BBC Wales in 1964 and during the next 26 years spent ten years as a producer before joining the management team as Head of Programmes and Controller, BBC Wales. In 1990 he left the BBC to join the international Thomson Foundation. Gareth is a Fellow of Aberystwyth University and was awarded the Commonwealth Association Medal for Services to International Public Broadcasting in 2006.