Wales’ broadcasters should recognise there is an audience for serious programming, according to one of the country’s leading academics.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre and an analyst on S4C’s election coverage, told The National that Wales’ broadcasters can take confidence from their coverage of the election count on May 7, the day after polling day.

Counting of ballot papers was delayed until May 7 due to the pandemic, with BBC Wales, ITV Wales and S4C running election programming throughout the Friday and into the weekend.

All three ran extensive political programming in the lead up to the election, with leaders debates and interviews running in primetime evening slots.

However, political programmes such as ITV Wales’ Sharp End and BBC’s Wales Live now return to their traditional slots of late in the evening.

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Speaking to The National about the role the media plays in political engagement in Wales, Professor Wyn Jones said: “Moving forward, I hope one lesson learnt is that by counting during the day, we saw that the level of interest was astonishing.

“As somebody who took part in the coverage for S4C, the level of interest was so much greater and it was almost a festival of democracy, arguably something that we haven’t had since 1997.

“The truth is, if you are serious about democracy, you have to make it accessible. It does suggest that there is an audience for serious stuff and the last 15 months should give the broadcasters a bit of faith that they don’t have to hide stuff away in unsociable hours.”

According to BBC Wales, its TV election results coverage attracted an audience of around 1.1m people over the course of the weekend, which equates to nearly half the adult population in Wales.

Traffic to the BBC Wales News online content also peaked at one million unique browsers on Saturday May 8.

Professor Wyn Jones also believes that coverage of the Government’s Covid press briefings show there is an audience for political content on television.

He continued: “Another reason for hope from the last year is the amount of people tuning into the health related briefings, it has been astounding.

“The BBC and everybody involved in that has been astonishing and it does suggest that there is an audience for serious stuff.”

On Sunday, Leanne Wood said a UK media profile was needed in order for her to become a recognisable figure in Wales as Plaid Cymru's leader.

Powers over broadcasting are not currently devolved to Wales. However, earlier this year a Senedd committee recommended that powers should be transferred from Westminster.

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