Wales has long been a valued location for the film and television industry. The BBC began broadcasting in Cardiff way back in 1923 but the vast majority of development has occurred in recent years.
According to a report conducted by the city council, employment in the film, television and multimedia sector increased by over 40% between 1991 and 2001 – long after the likes of The Proud Valley and Blue Scar were filmed across the country. While similar rises occurred elsewhere, Cardiff’s workplace units grew at an astonishing rate of 431%; three times the UK rate.
If nothing else, this shows how important Cardiff is to those businesses in the industry. If you look back at the past, a number of prestigious shows and movies have been set and filmed in Wales. There is also a strong history in the production of animation programming across the country, most people will have fond memories of Postman Pat and Fireman Sam; both were produced in Wales. In more recent times, popular CBeebies show Rastamouse has taken over the mantle – maintaining Wales’s standpoint.
Employment in the media industry accounted for 2.1% of the city’s entire workforce as of 2001, almost double that of Wales as a whole. Traditionally, Cardiff has been home to Wales’ biggest television news channels, mainly BBC Wales, S4C and ITV. But the growth has been colossal and there is now an independent TV production industry of over 600 firms, providing jobs for close to 6,000 people contributing £350 million to the local economy.
In recent years, there has been a clear shift in the content being made here. Casualty, the longest-running emergency medical drama television series in the world, made the decision to move to Cardiff after 25 years based in Bristol. Currently filmed in the Roath Lock Studios, along with Dr Who, Casualty has now passed the 1,000 episode mark and continues to go from strength to strength.
Doctor Who, Britain’s oldest and most loved sci-fi television programme; filmed and produced in Wales it has been a jewel in the crown for the Welsh TV industry since the show’s resurrection in 2005. While Cardiff Bay’s award-winning Doctor Who Experience will sadly close its doors for the final time this summer, the show continues to boom with series 10 currently airing on BBC One; and Cardiff-based companies will continue to prosper if these popular television programmes stay in the local area.
The extremely popular Sherlock has also helped to boost Cardiff’s stock as one of the United Kingdom’s best places for filming. Predominantly filmed in the Welsh capital, Sherlock is one of the BBC’s biggest shows. It became the most watched drama on the channel in over a decade back in 2014 with an average of 11.82 million people tuning in for the third series.
But it isn’t just about the BBC and other national corporations. Across the United Kingdom, the Made in channels are helping to bring relevant news to local areas and in Cardiff, it is no different. By law, Made in Cardiff must broadcast 37 hours a week of first-run local programming and viewers can keep up with the latest news and current affairs across the Welsh hub. Interestingly, the majority of viewers (46%) fall into the 55+ bracket, which shows how the older generation have embraced the opportunity to hear about news that is appropriate to the local area via dedicated local television broadcasting.
Meanwhile, Welsh language television is also on the rise. Tinopolis, a company based in Llanelli around 50 miles away from the heart of Cardiff, are the largest producers of Welsh language programming with 400 hours annually. Heno, or Tonight in English, is a primetime live event-led magazine show that has been the showpiece show at S4C for over 21 years.
With so much investment in the local industry, there has been huge scope for film and TV production companies to flourish in and around the Cardiff area. Green Bay Media are one of the biggest for television and they have worked with major conglomerates in the past; including but not limited to Channel 4, Yesterday and the History Channel – one of our clients at MSA Focus. There are a number of other businesses based in Cardiff, including Pinewood Studios who, like MSA Focus, have strong ties to Malaysia and the Far East but recognise the vibrancy of the industry in the Welsh capital.
This lively, up-and-coming media sector has clearly contributed to enhancing a local, experienced workforce, however Cardiff University has also benefited from the city’s mini technological revolution and The Guardian now have the establishment fifth in their Media & Film Studies sector – and smart graduates will help local corporations to grow and adapt further. After all, helping to keep opportunities in Cardiff and the surrounding area should in turn help to provide partner opportunities for MSA Focus.
Cardiff is now firmly on the map as one of the United Kingdom’s leading locations for film and television – and rightly so. With so many household shows now filming here in the Welsh capital, the sector will continue to grow; both in terms of local television and national programmes.
About Alex McMahon
Alex is an experienced writer, working in the field of broadcast, media & technology.