Categories Software

Welsh parliament spent ‘eyewatering’ £233,000 on ‘vanity project’ software

The Welsh Parliament has been accused of pursuing a “vanity project” after spending more than nearly a quarter of a million pounds on a new TV and digital signage system – which was later used to block GB News from its system.

The Tripleplay system, installed across the Welsh Parliament estate in 2022, came at a cost to the taxpayer of £233,000 in total, GB News can reveal.


Last October, the Welsh parliament was accused of “censorship” after using the system to ban GB News from its televisions. Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, described the decision to ban the channel from the Senedd’s internal TVs as a “disgrace”, warning that it should “worry us all”.

A spokesperson for the Presiding Officer said the decision had been taken because the channel was “contrary to our parliament’s values.” They advised staff and members who want to watch the channel to “do so online”.

Senedd

The Welsh Parliament has been accused of pursuing a “vanity project” after spending more than £200,000 on the software used to block GB News from its channels

P.A

Today, Davies accused the Senedd of pursuing “yet another vanity project” at an “eyewatering cost”. But a spokesperson for the Senedd said the decision to spend the money on the new TV systems was made in order to “replace aging AV equipment”.

The total cost of the upgrades came to £233,000. The costs included £179,000 on combined IPTV and Digital Signage system hardware and servers, video and audio distribution amplifiers, encoders and interface equipment, perpetual licences.

IPTV system hardware and servers allow admins to create a private network and “use transmission and internet control protocols” – something which can be used to control which channels are broadcast.

The Senedd has refused to specify exactly how much this part of the system costs the taxpayer, noting that “detailed costs are commercially sensitive”.

Some £29,000 was spent on digital signage units and set-top boxes, while a further £25,000 was spent on cabling and network switches.

Speaking after the cost of the software was revealed, Davies told GB News: “I meant it when I said the banning of GB News was a disgrace that amounted to censorship – it should not have been for the Senedd to decide what news people watch.

“Now we have the eyewatering costs of yet another vanity project coming out of Cardiff Bay that the hard-pressed Welsh taxpayer will be footing the bill for.

“Instead of spending millions on 36 more politicians, upgrades to the government bunker and a new censorial TV system, Labor ministers and the Senedd Commission should fund our Welsh NHS properly which still has by far the longest waits in the UK.”

But a Senedd spokesperson said: “In February 2020, a decision was made to replace aging AV equipment across the Senedd’s Cardiff Bay estate and work has been ongoing since summer 2020.

“This program covers improvements to digital signage, visitor displays and in-office televisions.

“As such, there are no costs relating to removing GB News from televisions in the Welsh Parliament.”

A written question from Andrew RT Davies to the Senedd Commission asked: “Will the Commission provide a full breakdown of the total cost of installing the new Tripleplay set top boxes to screens across the Senedd estate?”

Ken Skates, on behalf of the Commission, responded: “The Tripleplay set top boxes were introduced as part of a larger project to replace the aging internal television system across the Cardiff Bay estate with a new, combined digital signage and IPTV platform that also improved public displays and digital signage.

“As a result, the core system components deliver a range of improvements to visitors and those who work on the Estate.”

At the time the channel was first blocked from the Senedd’s networks, a spokesperson for the Llywydd – the Welsh speaker – said in a statement: “GB News has been removed from the Senedd’s internal television system following a recent broadcast that was deliberately offensive, demeaning to public debate and contrary to our parliament’s values.

“There are now several ongoing Ofcom investigations into the channel.

“The Commission will discuss the issue at a future meeting, and staff and Members who wish to view GB News will still be able to do so online in the Senedd.”

Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons, spoke out in support of GB News in October, saying: “In Labour-controlled Wales, news programming available on Freeview has been banned from the Senedd. Is it because Labor doesn’t want to listen to the facts?”