In August 2017 an episode of Newsnight contained a debate which asked the question “is thge Welsh Language a help or a hindrance”.
There was, quite rightly, a huge uproar regarding the whole debacle. How did the BBC think it right to ask such a crass and stupid question, a studio debate between a renowned Welsh Language troll and a defender of the Language who, through no fault of her own, couldn’t speak Welsh. This during the National Eisteddfod, where the BBC had a huge outside broadcast at their disposal and Access to the then minister with responsibility for the Welsh Language, Alun Davies. All credit to Alun who was very vocal in his criticism of the BBC at the time.
My concern at the time, along with many others, was the perceived institutional issue the BBC had with the Welsh language. In order to address this I started and online petition, which you can still visit here, the petition called for the following:
An independent review should look at all BBC content that contained a reference to the Welsh language, prioritising news and current affairs output during the the last 24 months.
Why is this important?
Tonight on the day the Welsh Government published a white paper on the future of the Welsh language BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight posed the question “is the Welsh language a help or hindrance to the nation “, this was followed up in an item where the presenter suggested the Welsh language was a hobby and invited a contribution from an individual with a long track record of trolling the Welsh language. A review would enable the preparation of a documented audit of all items relating to the Welsh language and would be able to establish if indeed there is an issue with regards how the Welsh language is portrayed and to assess what editorial systems are in place to ensure editorial fairness.
Over 8,000 signed the petition within a matter of days. In September 2017 I delivered the petition to the BBC, OFCOM, the DCMS. OFCOM and the DCMS promptly responded that this was a matter for the BBC Board. Nos response was received from the BBC. 8 months later, following a complaint to BBC Cymru Wales regarding the original Newsnight item, I received a response from Ken McQuarrie, Director Nations and Regions.
Here is his response. (Apologies for the quality, it appears the response was scanned from a fax!)
OFCOM are still investigating my complaint relating to the item
We did not consider… This is purely opinion with no evidence to back this up.
It appears Jeremy Vine and is production team didn’t get the memo…
This is their responsibility as a public service broadcaster.
As you can see no evidence was provided to back up the BBC’s assertions in a very defensive response.
Following the response I re contacted OFCOM who received the same response from the BBC and were satisfied with the response.
In light of the recent controversy relating to the negative portrayal of Welsh speakers by Jeremy Vine it’s time to ask the question again, “to request the BBC carry out an independent review to establish if indeed there is an issue with regards how the Welsh language is portrayed and to assess what editorial systems are in place to ensure editorial fairness
Regardless of the issues at hand, serious questions need to be asked about how the governance of the BBC is conducted. Three of the current BBC board members have an in depth knowledge of Wales and its culture. It will be interesting to see their responses when this matter was discussed at board level, that’s assuming it was.
I will now be going back to the BBC board, OFCOM and the DCMS citing recent events as evidence that a review is overdue. I will also be requesting a copy of the relevant board minutes relating to my initial request.