ITV BID TO GAG REBECCA TELEVISION

September 1, 2013

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A  MAJOR battle is taking place between the broadcasting giant ITV and Rebecca Television.

Lawyers acting for ITV have given Rebecca Television until today to remove from the website a controversial interview which the company suppressed ten years ago.

The interview was given by Ron Jones, chairman of the independent television production company Tinopolis.

Jones revealed the extraordinary background to the abrupt sacking of the company’s co-founder Rhodri Williams back in 2001.

Jones accused his former partner — now Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom — of acting dishonestly.

The interview was first made public in our programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction? published last year.

Lawyers are also insisting that even the information contained in the interview belongs to ITV and that none of it can be used.

This is censorship — and Rebecca Television will not accept it.

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams' sudden departure from  the company he helped to found was suppressed in 2001, again in 2003 and now ITV want to hide it again.  Photo: Ofcom

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES
The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams’ sudden departure from the company he helped to found was kept secret in 2001, suppressed in 2003 and now ITV wants to bury it all over again…   Photo: Ofcom


ON JUNE 17 this year ITV wrote to Rebecca Television (RTV) giving the website seven days to remove all trace of a celebrated interview.

The company want the interview — with the independent producer Ron Jones — removed from the programme Hidden Agenda.

The interview took place in 2003.

It dramatically revealed how Rhodri Wiliams, the current Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, came to be sacked from the production company Tinopolis in 2001.

Williams was dismissed for dishonesty after allegedly diverting business from Tinopolis — then called Agenda — to a competitor.

Williams denied acting dishonestly — he said at the time the allegation was “defamatory and libellous”.

The interview with Ron Jones was carried out by the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week in 2003.

At the time Rebecca Television editor Paddy French worked for ITV Wales and was the producer in charge of the proposed programme.

It was never broadcast.

Later in 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

(The story of the suppression of the interview in 2003 is told in the article A Licence To Censor.)

In April 2012 Rebecca Television finally used the Ron Jones interview in the preparation of the programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction?

More than a year later ITV lawyer John Berry said that ITV’s “attention had been drawn” to the use of the material.

“The video Hidden Agenda in particular includes and relies heavily upon previously unbroadcast footage filmed for Wales This Week and owned by ITV.”

“As you are no doubt aware, the making of a copy of a copyright work and the communication of such a work to the public without the permission of the copyright owner is contrary to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988.”

Berry demanded that ITV’s material be removed within seven days and noted “we reserve all rights, in particular our right to bring legal proceedings against you including but not limited to those relating to breach of confidence and infringement of copyright.”

The deadline was eventually extended to September 1.

On June 24 RTV editor Paddy French emailed a reply.

He pointed out that ITV Wales had never shown any interest in the Ron Jones interview.

(The tapes sat on his desk until he left the company in 2008 and took them with him.)

RON JONES ITV are goig to extraordinary efforts to remove Gave  an extraordinary interview to ITV Wales  in 2003

RON JONES
One of the founders of Tinopolis, the Llanelli-based television production company. He gave the interview in 2003 but it was nearly a decade before it entered the public domain.  Photo: Tinopolis

He stated: “there is as powerful a public interest in this material seeing the light of day today as there was when it was filmed.”

“There is an argument that this material was censored back in 2003 and that … this present attempt to remove this material leaves the company vulnerable to the accusation that it is acting as censor.”

♦♦♦ 

ITV did not respond to this email. 

On July 2 French emailed ITV again.

This time he pointed out that, although ITV was concentrating on removing the material relating to Rhodri Williams, there was other ITV copyright material on the Rebecca Television website.

This included part of another interview which had never seen the light of day until RTV included it in the programme A Touch of Frost.

This video, which was first published  in April 2011, includes part of an ITV interview with a man called Des Frost.

“A key part of his testimony was not included in a 1997 Wales This Week programme because the Waterhouse child abuse Tribunal threatened contempt proceedings if it was broadcast.”

But the Tribunal did not call Frost as a witness and never heard his claims that he reported child abuse to the police ten years before they began investigating.

Paddy French had worked on this 1997 programme as a freelance investigator.

“There was no objection to the use of this footage by ITV Wales … in 2011.”

A Touch of Frost took on a dramatic significance last November when the BBC programme Newsnight allowed Stephen Messham to falsely imply that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile.

This led to the government ordering a new police investigation and a review, headed by Mrs Justice Macur, into the way the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse had carried out its task.

French added: “I immediately alerted ITV Wales to the fact that the company held what was now highly significant archive material. This resulted in a new Wales This Week programme which went out last November.”

“As part of this process I was able to reveal that I had met Sir Ronald Waterhouse back in 2000 to discuss the Frost material. This gave ITV Wales several exclusive stories.”

“I say all this,” French went on, “to emphasise the mutuality of the relationship between ITV and RTV.”

“Without my knowledge, ITV Wales would have missed the fact that they held valuable archive while my long-term interest in the issue proved invaluable to the station.”

“In conclusion, I would say that this is a highly unusual position.”

“For ten years I was a conscientious employee of ITV Wales and since I have left my expertise has come in useful on several occasions …”

“I believe that an agreement whereby I am allowed to use the ITV Wales material for a nominal £1 payment would satisfy the company’s interests.”

♦♦♦ 

Again, ITV did not reply.

Instead, the company instructed the London solicitors Olswang to take up the issue.

On July 30 the firm wrote to RTV, dismissing the suggestion that ITV allow the use of the material for a nominal £1.

“ITV has not and will not in the future provide you with permission to use the ITV property …”

Olswang also dismissed the public interest argument: “there is clearly no public interest in broadcasting material which you have obtained without consent from our client and which raises no current issue of public importance.”

“In fact, it is apparent from an article featuring on the website entitled A Licence To Censor, which states that you and Rhodri Williams fell out in the 1980s, that rather than you being motivated by public interest concerns, you in fact have personal motivations for wanting the ITV property relating to Rhodri Williams to be published.”

(French denies this — see the discussion of the issue in the article A Licence To Censor.)

MYSTERY Rhodri Williams started his public career in 1996 when he was appointed a member of the Welsh Language Board. In the period 1996-2004 he would take home a total of more than £180,000 in fees and pension contributions. Photo: Rebecca

Mr REGULATOR
Rhodri Williams leads the Welsh arm of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. He’s a well-connected man: his wife Siân’s best friend is former Labour AM Delyth Evans who is the partner of Ofcom boss Ed Richards. Both Evans and Richards once worked for Gordon Brown.  Photo: Rebecca Television

Olwang added: “Your claims that ITV is acting as a censor are also without foundation, as ITV is simply trying to protect its rights in the unbroadcast ITV property.”

The firm has now demanded that all other ITV material be removed from the RTV site.

♦♦♦ 

THE UPSHOT of this legal wrangling is that Rebecca Television has no choice but to remove the physical ITV material from the website.

“There is, and never was, any doubt that ITV owned the copyright to the material,” says Paddy French.

“I had hoped the company would turn a blind eye because it was embarrassed that it had never broadcast some of the material.”

“For several years, this is what seems to have happened.”

“Now, for reasons that are unclear, it has decided to act.”

“It is interesting that ITV’s main interest is in the Ron Jones interview that damages the reputation of the Ofcom Wales Director Rhodri Williams.”

This means that the programmes Hidden Agenda and A Touch Of Frost have been temporarily withdrawn for re-editing.

Other material has also been removed, including the well-known doorstep where former Anglesey County Councillor John Arthur Jones called Paddy French a paedophile.

Originally, this appeared in the article The Gospel According to “Jesus” Arthur Jones.

♦♦♦ 

But that’s not the end of the matter.

Olswang also insist that “ITV is also the owner of the confidential information in the unbroadcast ITV property…”

The use of this information “is clearly a breach of confidence.”

“The article entitled A Man Of Conviction? which is based on and quotes from the Ron Jones interview should therefore also be removed from the website.”

“This is unacceptable to Rebecca Television,” said French.

“It’s a clear attempt to censor information already in the public domain — and which belongs in the public domain.”

Rebecca Television will not be complying with this condition.”

“The fact that the company is making such a determined effort to remove all trace of the Ron Jones interview suggests that other, deeper forces may be at work here,” added French.

This is not the first time RTV has faced legal demands for the withdrawal of articles.

In July three senior Welsh Rugby Union figures — chairman David Pickering, chief executive Roger Lewis and communications chief John Williams — instructed solicitors to threaten legal action if the article A Licence To Censor was not taken down.

The article told the story of the censorship of a damaging business profile of Pickering back in 2006 by ITV Wales director of programmes Elis Owen.

In the article WRU Big Guns v Rebecca Television, RTV refused to axe the article.

So far, we have heard nothing from Pickering, Lewis, Williams or their solicitors.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

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COMING UP

With two television programmes temporarily withdrawn for re-editing, Rebecca Television will shortly publish the next video — Brothers in the Shadows. It’s a dark tale of a vicious murderer in North Wales who groomed a vulnerable young girl and formed a paedophile ring to sexually exploit her. One ring member was a retired police detective who claims he was persuaded to join the gang by a fellow freemason…  


WRU BIG GUNS v REBECCA TELEVISION

July 22, 2013

rebecca_6aTWO OF Welsh rugby’s most senior figures have accused Rebecca Television of defamation.

Lawyers acting for WRU chairman David Pickering and chief executive Roger Lewis claim an investigation into censorship at ITV Wales libelled them.

They say the article accuses them of acting to prevent a documentary about Pickering’s financial affairs from being broadcast back in 2006.

They demand a retraction and an unreserved apology.

Rebecca Television rejects these allegations. There will be no apology.

DAVID PICKERING The WRU chairman instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca television.as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
The WRU chairman has instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca Television. Photo: PA

MORE THAN a year after it was first published, WRU officials David Pickering and Roger Lewis have finally responded to the Rebecca Television article A Licence To Censor.

Along with the WRU’s communications chief John Williams, they have instructed solicitors to take action against the website.

In a four page letter, the Cardiff law-firm Hugh James say the three men consider the entire article to be defamatory.

The article revealed that an ITV Wales This Week programme into the personal financial affairs of WRU chairman David Pickering was axed in May 2006 on the orders of then programme controller Elis Owen.

At the time Roger Lewis was ITV Wales’ managing director and John Williams was head of news.

Lewis was appointed chief executive of the WRU in September 2006.

Williams became head of communications at the Union in December 2006.

Hugh James now claim that A Licence To Censor also means “there were strong grounds to suspect that Mr Pickering caused ITV Wales to censor the channel’s planned coverage of his financial affairs …”.

Their letter also states that the investigation also means that “there were strong grounds to suspect that Mr Lewis and Mr Williams together helped to suppress the Pickering programme on a corrupt basis” partly because “each man either had obtained or hoped to obtain senior and lucrative employment with the WRU.”

“Our clients require you to withdraw these allegations and to apologise for them unreservedly …”

In his reply, sent to Hugh James today, Rebecca Television editor Paddy French rejected the claims — and declined to offer an apology.

“The article A Licence To Censor was a forceful indictment of censorship at ITV Wales in 2006,” wrote French, “but it criticised only one individual — Elis Owen.”

“And, while it condemned him for censoring a Wales This Week programme — for which I was the producer — it was quite specific about what he’d done wrong.”

“At the time I directly accused Owen of ‘noble cause corruption’ — censoring the programme for what he thought was the morally justifiable reason of protecting the commercial interests of ITV Wales.”

“There was no question that he acted to advance his own personal interests. And there was no suggestion that he acted as a result of pressure from anyone else.”

“The article also makes it clear that Roger Lewis rang Bruce Kennedy, the executive in charge of Wales This Week, to make it clear he was not interfering in the editorial process.”

ROGER LEWIS Was the Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There's no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA.

ROGER LEWIS
The WRU’s chief executive has also instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca Television. Photo: PA

“It follows that, if Elis Owen acted alone and Roger Lewis took no part in the proceedings, that David Pickering can have had no say in the fate of the programme.”

“Consequently, the article cannot carry the meaning that Pickering, Lewis and Williams suggest.”

“As a result, Rebecca Television has no need to apologise to the three men.”

♦♦♦

DAVID PICKERING also claimed that the article defamed him by saying he was in “financial disarray”.

Rebecca Television accepts the article makes this claim but believes it is factually accurate.

Pickering had two county court judgments against him and many of the companies he was involved with had gone bust owing millions of pounds in unpaid VAT and tax.

Pickering’s lawyers also dispute that Pickering misled the media over the true state of his business activities.

They seize on one passage in A Licence To Censor.

The article contains these three paragraphs:

“Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million.”  

“This time Pickering told the Western Mail that “the great majority of the money was owed to associated companies and not third parties.”   

“This was untrue. The five companies owed £2.8 million in unpaid tax and VAT.”

This summary is misleading — and conceals a more complicated picture.

Pickering’s comment was made in May 2006 in an article about the failure of a surviving company called R & R Group to submit accounts on time.

Pickering said that although the company “had a substantial deficit, the great majority of the money owed was to associated companies, and not third parties.”

However, Pickering did not acknowledge that part of R & R Group’s problems were caused by difficulties at its subsidiaries.

Two of these R & R Group subsidiaries had gone bust in June 2004 with massive losses.

They had chalked up combined debts of nearly £3 million of which close to £1.4 million was accounted for in unpaid VAT and tax.

In July 2004, in a Western Mail article about the failure of other companies to file accounts on time, Pickering  stated: “I’m involved in eight or nine companies and all of them are up and running.”

“They are all in different cycles, but there are no problems.”

A year later five of these companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million of which unpaid tax and VAT accounted for £2.8 million.

Rebecca Television will revise this passage of A Licence To Censor to make it clearer” French wrote to Pickering’s solicitors, “but we stand by the claim that he did not give an accurate picture of his financial affairs to the media.”

♦♦♦

ANOTHER extraordinary claim made by lawyers acting for the three men is that the proposed 2006 Wales This Week programme was not editorially sound.

They insist “there was a consensus that it lacked interest and importance”.

The “information about Mr Pickering’s financial affairs was largely old news …” and “there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by him”.

A Licence To Censor does not accuse Pickering of any wrongdoing,” French told the lawyers, “but the claim that the information about his financial affairs was largely old news is nonsense.

“ITV’s chief news reporter Andy Collinson and the man in charge of Wales This Week, Bruce Kennedy — as well as myself — were all convinced it was a valid programme.”

“The crashes of 2004 and 2005 were not reported by national media in Wales and Andy Collinson’s discovery of the substantial county judgments was totally unknown.”

“The poor state of the remaining companies was not generally appreciated.”

The lawyers also say that John Williams now denies that he ever changed his mind about the programme.

A Licence To Censor stated that Williams, who was head of news at the time, had been persuaded by the Wales This Week analysis of Pickering’s plight:

“At the end of the presentation, John Williams — who had not been sure there was a story up to that point — said he was convinced.”
 

“He was shocked at the amount of money Pickering’s companies had lost and he was happy to run a news item on the Friday.”

In April 2012 Rebecca Television sent John Williams an outline of the article.

It included these words: “JW [John Williams] said he was convinced now: he had no idea the debts were so great …”

He did not respond to this email.

When the article was published later that month, he did not take advantage of the Rebecca Television “right of reply” and “corrections” facilities.

Again, the original article will be amended to include his denial.

The article will also be amended to take account of other points made by the three men.

They do not affect the overall thrust of the article.

Rebecca Television stands by it.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — we’ll correct as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the investigative work of this website, you can make a donation to our bank account: Rebecca Television — sort code: 40-16-15,  account number 22819236.


A LICENCE TO CENSOR

June 24, 2013

rebecca_6aTHE CURRENT line-up of the top brass at the Welsh Rugby Union was decided seven years ago.

Former Welsh international David Pickering succeeded in winning a vote of no confidence in his chairmanship in 2006. He’s still chairman today.

But was his survival due to the censorship of a potentially damaging television programme?

A Rebecca investigation — much of it based on the personal experience of editor Paddy French — shows that censorship is alive and well in Welsh broadcasting.

DAVID PICKERING The former Welsh international survived as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union. He took the chair in 2003 but by 2006 was facing a serious challenge from critics.  Photo: PA

IN APRIL 2006 ITV Wales’ chief news reporter Andy Collinson was tipped off that a senior figure in Welsh rugby was in trouble.

Collinson was told former international player and Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering was in financial difficulty — judgments had been obtained against him for the recovery of debts.

It was a sensitive time for Pickering and the Union. The latest accounts painted a rosy picture of the Union’s finances but critics were claiming the books had been fixed.

A special general meeting of the Union had been scheduled.

Collinson went to see a colleague working for Wales This Week, the station’s current affairs programme. He asked producer Paddy French if there was a way to confirm that these judgments existed.

French — now Editor of Rebecca — told him that if the debts were personal, judgements would be kept by the Registry of County Court Judgments in London. For a small fee, it was possible to search for decisions against any person in England and Wales.

French also suggested that, while he was doing these searches, he should include the companies in which Pickering had an interest.

At the same time, Wales This Week would carry out a financial analysis of Pickering’s companies. Most of these were engineering companies involved in the Welsh steel industry.

By early May, the results of both searches were in.

Pickering had two judgments against him. At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

French’s analysis of the clutch of engineering businesses in which Pickering was involved found they were also in trouble.

In June 2004 two of these companies had gone bust to the tune of £3 million — with £1 million owed to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

At the time Pickering told the Western Mail that the rest of his activities were sound: “I’m involved with eight or nine companies … there are no problems.”

Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies went under with debts of nearly £5 million.

This time Pickering told the Western Mail that “the great majority of the money was owed to associated companies and not third parties.”

This was untrue. The five companies owed £2.8 million in unpaid tax and VAT.

Port Talbot haulier Ian Gorvett lost £50,000. He had also lost money in the crash the year before but had agreed to help the resurrected business.

Another major creditor was Barclays Bank which lost half a million pounds. Ironically, Barclays were the bankers to the WRU.

The 2005 crash left Pickering with stakes in six companies. But they were struggling — between them they had chalked up losses of £750,000.

Two of these firms had been warned by Companies House for failing to file accounts. Another two companies had been taken to court and ordered to pay debts of more than £15,000.

The position was that a group of companies in which the  chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union was involved, were teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Collinson and the Wales This Week team discussed how to handle what was fast becoming an explosive story.

The obvious “peg” for the coverage was the special general meeting of the WRU on May 14 to discuss its financial position and to vote on the motion of no-confidence in David Pickering.

It was agreed that the best plan of action was for Collinson to report on the general position on the Friday night before the meeting — with Wales This Week exploring Pickering’s finances in detail in its programme on Monday, May 16.

Bruce Kennedy, Head of Factual Programmes and in charge of Wales This Week, made it clear he would have to consult Director of Programmes Elis Owen.

ITV Wales held the exclusive contract to broadcast the forthcoming Rugby World Cup to be held in Cardiff and the planned coverage of Pickering’s business affairs would strain relations to the limit.

In the week before the special meeting of the WRU, Elis Owen called a meeting to discuss the issue.

Also present were John Williams, editor of the main evening news programme, and his chief reporter Andy Collinson. Wales This Week was represented by Bruce Kennedy and Paddy French.

ELIS OWEN  The Head of Programmes at ITV Wales refused to allow the damaging programme about David Pickering to proceed.

ELIS OWEN
The Director of Programmes at ITV Wales refused to allow the damaging programme about David Pickering to proceed. Photo: BBC Wales

French gave a brief outline of the research that had been done. He had also come up with a device to simplify the financial aspects of the story.

The Wales This Week programme would portray Pickering’s businesses as a team of fifteen players.

Some of these would be given red cards because they had gone bust. Those that were losing money would be shown as injured. Those that had been ordered to pay debts or had been warned by Companies House would be sin-binned.

At the end of the presentation, John Williams — who had not been sure there was a story up to that point — said he was convinced. He was shocked at the amount of money Pickering’s companies had lost and he was happy to run a news item on the Friday.

There was general agreement that the programme was editorially sound.

Even so, Elis Owen made it clear that if the investigation did not lead to the resignation of David Pickering, then ITV Wales’ relationship with the WRU would be severely strained.

ITV Wales, he added, needed the co-operation of the union to fully exploit the channel’s exclusive rights to the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The Wales This Week team began preparing the programme with the editing process planned to take place over the weekend.

On Friday, 12 May Elis Owen called another meeting, this time with Bruce Kennedy, Andy Collinson and Paddy French.

He said he did not want the programme to go out as planned on May 15. Bruce Kennedy and Paddy French made it clear they did not agree. Owen would not be budged

John Williams also called off the planned item for that evening’s Wales Tonight news programme.

Bruce Kennedy said that he’d been called by ITV Wales’ managing director Roger Lewis to say that he had been contacted by David Pickering. Lewis made it clear to Kennedy that he was not interfering in how the story was to be handled.

On the Sunday David Pickering survived the vote of no confidence at the special general meeting.

Later, Bruce Kennedy tried to get the aborted Wales This Week programme back on the schedules.

On 1 June 2006 another discussion took place in Elis Owen’s office about the future of this programme. Owen said he still had editorial reservations about the story.

Bruce Kennedy pointed out that he had expressed no such reservations at the earlier meeting. Owen insisted that there were no ordinary victims of the collapse of Pickering’s companies.

Bruce Kennedy cited the example of Port Talbot haulier Ian Gorvett who had twice lost money in the collapse of companies owned by Pickering. He had already been interviewed by Wales This Week.

But Owen was adamant — there would be no programme. Paddy French was clear:

“What’s happening here is censorship.

French continued:

“I think this is noble cause corruption — you are doing the wrong thing for what you believe are the right reasons.”

Elis Owen was furious at this remark: “Are you calling me corrupt?”

French did not withdraw the remark.

The meeting ended — the Wales This Week programme was never broadcast.

On September 9 the WRU appointed a new group chief executive — Roger Lewis, the MD at ITV Wales.

The post had been vacant since the resignation of David Moffett the previous year. After Moffett’s departure, the WRU said the post was no longer needed.

ROGER LEWIS Was the Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There's no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA.

ROGER LEWIS
Managing Director of ITV Wales when the Pickering programme was axed. There’s no evidence he was involved in the decision. Photo: PA

The decision to appoint a new group executive had been taken just before the May 14 special general meeting.

Elis Owen stepped into Lewis’ shoes as managing director of ITV Wales.

On December 20, the WRU also appointed a new head of communications — John Williams, the former Head of News at ITV Wales.

In 2011 Roger Lewis’ remuneration package was worth £320,000 — David Pickering was paid £35,000.

Rebecca asked all the participants to comment on the allegations made in this article.

Elis Owen, who had left ITV Wales in 2009 and joined BBC Wales as Head of Commissioning, didn’t reply.

David Pickering, Roger Lewis and John Williams didn’t reply.

ITV Wales said:

“The story covers events a number of years ago and refers to individuals who no longer work for ITV. In the circumstances we don’t think it appropriate to comment.”

Bruce Kennedy was in no doubt that the programme should have gone ahead:

“Journalistically the story was sound. The WRU chairman is, at least in part, responsible for the proper running of a huge financial empire, the success of which is fundamental to Welsh life.”

“I felt therefore that an investigation into the commercial /  financial acumen of an individual who was endeavouring to hang on to that post was entirely justifiable; was a matter of considerable public interest and was absolutely in the tradition of the best of Wales This Week. It was also a highly topical programme.”

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS earlier, in 2003, another powerful programme failed to see the light of day.

It concerned Welsh Language Board chairman Rhodri Williams and the reason why he’d abruptly left the TV production company Agenda in 2001. He had been one of its founders back in 1980.

The full story of Williams’ career is told in the television programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man of Conviction?

In September 2001 Williams was dismissed by Agenda. At the time Ron Jones, the accountant who had set up Agenda with Rhodri Williams, would not comment on the reasons for the departure.

But in May 2003 Williams went to work for the Avanti group owned by Emyr Afan and his wife Mair.

At the time Avanti was flying high. It made its money from programmes on the thriving Welsh music scene.

In September 2000 Tom Jones opened a new studio complex in an old lemonade factory at Porth in the Rhondda — called the Pop Factory. Instead of a fee, he took a one per cent stake in the business.

TOM JONES

TOM JONES
The star took a one per cent stake in Avanti when he agreed to open the group’s headquarters near Pontypridd. Photo: PA

Emyr and Mair Afan were also moving up in the world. In August 2001 they had sold their home in Cardiff’s Rhiwbina district for £215,000.

The same day they bought a new house in the Cyncoed area of the city for £550,000.

The following year Avanti was named Welsh Innovation and Entrepreneurial Company. Afan’s wife, Mair, had earlier been voted top woman in Welsh media.

All was not plain sailing, however. Avanti blamed a series of county court judgments between 1998 and 2002 on administrative problems.

But Avanti hit the headlines in 2003 over a highly controversial £4 million grant from the higher education quango ELWa.

The money was given to fund a novel training scheme called the Pop Café. Young unemployed people who would not consider further education would be enticed into media training via a specially-created café environment.

But the scheme broke rules and was criticised by the Wales Audit Office. Avanti eventually returned about half the money — but the Welsh Assembly Government got nothing for the £2 million that Avanti was allowed to keep.

A month after Williams’ decision to join Avanti, Ron Jones decided to speak out about the reasons he’d been sacked in 2001

The proposed programme was discussed at a Wales This Week editorial meeting in May 2003. Producer Paddy French declared an interest: he and Rhodri Williams had fallen out in the late 1980s.

(In 1988 a critical but inaccurate profile of French had appeared in the magazine Golwg. French believed the source of the information — and misinformation — was Rhodri Williams.

At the time French and Rhodri Williams’ wife Siân Helen worked for the co-operative Gwasg Rydd which produced the TV guide Sbec for S4C. There had been a disagreement over a redesign of the guide: French wanted an outside firm while Siân Helen thought she could do the work herself.

Williams denied he was involved in the article. “I did not write it and have no comment to make on it,” he said.

French was saddened by the Golwg piece: “I could not believe that someone I had taught could be party to a piece of work that went against everything I stood for. I felt that everything Rebecca stood for had been betrayed.”)

The proposed Wales This Week programme stayed on the schedules and in June 2003 French interviewed Ron Jones at Agenda’s headquarters in Llanelli. By that time the company had changed its name to Tinopolis.

During the interview Ron Jones, said of Rhodri  Williams and quangos: “I think we allow them into the hands of people whose honesty can be so easily questioned at our peril.”

French said: “Because of the history between Rhodri Williams and myself I did not feel I could morally press for the programme to be made.”

“I made the situation clear to the people in charge of the programme. I would not have objected if they had decided to give the project to another producer”.

“However, I was in no doubt that the programme was a strong one and was it was in the public interest that it should go ahead.”

“That did not happen. In fact, nothing happened at all. Week after week, month after month the interview with Ron Jones  stayed on the shelf. It never saw the light of day — until it appeared in the Hidden Agenda programme on the Rebecca website.

In December 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

NOTES

1  This article was first published in April 2012 on the original Rebecca website.

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© Rebecca 2013

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