A letter calling on the UK Government to remove a Welsh language television channel from the Public Bodies Bill has been sent to the (UK) Minister for Culture by two members of the League’s General Council (GC).
General Secretary (GS), Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, and Cymru Branch Secretary, Adam Philips, have jointly written a letter to the (UK) Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt MP in response to a summit that was hosted by the Minister in Wales last week (26th August 2011). The summit in Newport outlined the Minister’s proposals to set up local television stations in Wales and the South West of England.
Appalled by the level of the cuts to the S4C budget and the apparent lack of interest shown by the Minister to Welsh language broadcasting, Mr Philip’s wrote to members of the League’s GC last week to say:
“I think it’s a sad day when the [UK] Culture Minister overlooks a nation and a channel that has been fought for by generations of our people.
“The model of S4C has been copied in other countries and as the only Cymru Cymraeg Channel [in the world it] should be protected.”
Mr Tal-e-bot and Mr Philips were motivated to write the letter to the Minister after it emerged that Minister Hunt made no attempt to meet anyone about the future of S4C during his visit, despite the summit being about television broadcasting in Wales. In the letter the GC members argue that comments made by Minister Hunt during his visit that he was “totally committed” to Welsh language broadcasting and wanted to protect the S4C budget, were “utterly disingenuous”. The letter went on to say:
“If it was the intention of your Department to develop Welsh language television then surely you would have arranged to meet with representatives from S4C at the summit in Newport to discuss your plans.”
On the day of the summit Welsh language campaigner, Jamie Bevan, who was released from a seven day jail term that morning in Gloucester, England for a protest he took part in about the S4C budget cuts, travelled to Newport to picket the summit with fellow members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg and to confront Minister Hunt.
In his comments about the jailing of Mr Bevan, the Mr Philips said:
“…surely a Welsh prison was closer and would have made more sense… was someone trying to make a point? Trying to reduce the number of people that would be waiting to greet him on release?”
Mr Bevan is the first language activist to be imprisoned over the future of Welsh language broadcasting for almost 30 years. He was convicted of breaking into the office of Cardiff North MP Jonathan Evans, and painted a slogan on the wall of the building. The full text of the letter to Minister Hunt, which has been copied to the European Commissioner for Culture, Androula Vassiliou, can be found below.
“Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
Dear Minister of State Jeremy Hunt
Welsh Language Television Broadcasting
I am writing to you following the `summit’ your Department hosted at the University of Wales, Newport, Wales on 26th August 2011, to outline its plans for local television stations to be set up in the ‘South West and Wales area’.
It is my belief that the public money used to create these local television stations throughout Wales could have been put to better use by the Welsh
language television channel, S4C, which has received substantial cuts to its budget by the current Government. I am disappointed that your Department refuses to see the point of view of thousands of people – both Welsh and English speakers alike – that by drastically cutting the budget of S4C by 94% the influence of Welsh media will be inevitably downgraded, in what can only be described as a deliberate attempt to disproportionately weaken the status of the language in Wales.
Your Department’s proposals for local stations to be run on a voluntary basis with running costs met through advertising, will do little to help the
development of Welsh language television. The only way that these proposals could work effectively is if they were supported by the presence of a publically funded national television channel such as S4C. If it was the intention of your Department to develop Welsh language television then surely you would have arranged to meet with representatives from S4C at the summit in Newport to discuss your plans.
Your Department’s general lack of interest in promoting Welsh language television is further evident in the presentation of its plans for local
stations on a `Wales and South West [region of England]’ basis. It is clear that in doing this your Department has a lack of understanding of the cultural integrity of Wales and I am concerned that these developments may contravene your Government’s commitments set out under the European Charter for Minority Languages, to provide television and radio in the relevant languages of each country who are signatories of the Charter.
In view of the disproportionate size of the cuts to the budget of S4C in comparison to English language broadcaster’s and your Departments apparent unwillingness to meet with S4C to talk about the future of the channel on your visit to Wales last week, it would seem that you are being utterly disingenuous when you were reported in the Western Mail newspaper last weekend as saying that you are “totally committed to Welsh language broadcasting…by protecting S4C’s budget”. Moreover I would argue that in view of the cuts to the budget of S4C, you should recommend that the station is removed from the Public Bodies Bill.
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League
Adam Philips Cymru Branch Secretary Celtic League
CC European Commissioner for Culture, Androula Vassiliou”
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information