BBC Wales (known in Welsh as BBC Cymru) is the Welsh division of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Although based in and around Cardiff, it also operates from other sites in Wales, including one at Aberystwyth University. It operates the Welsh regional variants of BBC One and BBC Two. However, the bulk of its employees are concerned with the production of new content.
As sole producer edit
BBC Wales makes television programmes in both the English and Welsh languages. It is the largest BBC production centre outside London. Some of what the channel has produced has been for consumption throughout the whole of UK, but much of it is only broadcast within Wales.
Around 2003, the BBC successfully untangled the rights issues surrounding Doctor Who, which had plagued the possible return of the program for most of the 1990s. BBC Wales became the production base for a new, televised version of Doctor Who and its behind-the-scenes companion, Doctor Who Confidential. After these shows proved successful, BBC Wales added the spin-off shows Torchwood, Torchwood Declassified, Totally Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
This heavy output of material related to the Whoniverse prompted the largest expansion of production facilities in the division's history. In 2006, BBC Wales leased a site at Upper Boat in Pontypridd, where they constructed studio space entirely dedicated to the production of Doctor Who and its spin-offs. Called simply "BBC Studios", the site is ten times as large as the rest of BBC Wales' studio space in Cardiff and the largest studio complex in Wales.
BBC Wales has not restricted the production of Doctor Who and its spinoffs to Welsh facilities, however, as both Doctor Who and Torchwood have utilised other British Isles locations and BBC Cymru-sponsored Doctor Who production has also taken place abroad (to date including the United States (for second unit work on Daleks in Manhattan and primary shooting in The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon), Rome (The Fires of Pompeii), Croatia (for the Series 5 episode Vincent And The Doctor) and even the United Arab Emirates (Planet of the Dead).
Despite the centrality of Doctor Who to BBC Wales' production output, the division has turned out a wide body of other work, mostly for consumption in Wales itself. As of 2009, its Welsh language soap opera, Pobol y Cwm, had been on the air for 35 years. Its longest-running English language drama, Belonging — co-starring Eve Myles for a time — lasted ten series.
As commissioning agent edit
Like its BBC parent, BBC Wales can opt to pursue another production path. Instead of making the programmes themselves, they have an ability to commission programmes from other producers. This arrangement allows them to share both risk and reward with the contracted producer. Comparatively little of its Welsh language output is produced through such arrangements, but most of the programmes it shares with the national BBC are in fact commissioned work. Among the more famous commissioned BBC Wales programmes are: Casanova (created by Russell T Davies and starring David Tennant), Life on Mars (co-created by Matthew Graham and starring John Simm), Merlin (starring, among others, Colin Morgan, Anthony Head and Angel Coulby), and Being Human (created by Toby Whithouse and starring Russell Tovey). In the summer of 2009, Merlin became the first BBC Wales-commissioned series to air on a mainstream American network when its first series was shown on NBC, while Life on Mars and Being Human were subject to Americanized remake.
BBC Wales continues to grow. It has recently been announced that production of the long-running series Casualty will relocate to Cardiff. Also, in December 2009, the Welsh government approved construction of yet another studio, dubbed the BBC Drama Village, on a reclaimed site near Cardiff Bay (Upper Boat is located some miles north of Cardiff). Production of Doctor Who and its spin-offs is expected to eventually relocate to this site.