"Whilst different perspectives were included in this item on the Welsh language, the discussion of such an important subject would have benefited from more thorough analysis and debate."We regret that, but believe it was important to look at this topic and we will do so again in the future."When the Wasting Mule points pit the inadequacy of the program you know how bad it is
Martin Shipton writes
BBC’s Newsnight programme is much diminished since the departure of Jeremy Paxman, but its item on the Welsh language may have been a new nadir.
Instead of a nuanced debate about a culturally sensitive subject, the debate on Wednesday night's programme was a wholly inadequate and insensitive offering that fell below the standard we have a right to expect from the national broadcaster.
Presenter Evan Davis was unsure of his ground, and failed to challenge the anti-Welsh-language novelist Julian Ruck who has ranted against the language on his website and in newspaper columns for years.
He should have been picked up when he appeared to suggest that private sector companies currently have a legal obligation to spend vast sums of money promoting the language (they don’t).
Ruck was also allowed to suggest that pupils leaving Welsh-medium schools were unable to speak Welsh. This is simply not true
He was also unchallenged by Davis when he argued crassly that paying for the NHS is more important than the Welsh language, as if there aren’t Welsh speakers who want to be treated through the medium of Welsh.
It was also unfair to make a non-Welsh speaker defend the language. Ruth Dawson, the Wales editor of The Conversation website, is not best equipped to explain the cultural importance of Welsh, and lacked authority in seeking to do so.
Astonishingly, it seems that the Newsnight team did not even bother to contact BBC Wales for advice on how to do the item. If they had done so, they may have had a grasp of the subject and avoided making fools of themselves.It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that what was broadcast was an example of arrogant, England-based programme-makers showing an enormous lack of respect to Wales and its language.There is even unprecedented criticism from within the BBC
Shame on them – and let’s hope the BBC hierarchy makes sure nothing like this happens again.
BBC Wales arts and media correspondent Huw Thomas wrote
How Wales is portrayed by the BBC was already a hot topic before Newsnight aired its contentious debate.
In the hours before its broadcast, a panel of industry experts at the National Eisteddfod had debated the need to improve the way Wales and the Welsh language is covered by UK-wide television programmes.
But while the focus had been on the positive steps being taken by the BBC to improve its coverage, much of the goodwill seemed to unravel when the Newsnight titles rolled.
The social media reaction has been furious, a petition is fast gathering signatures, and politicians are calling for apologies.
But many questions remain, among them: Why begin with a headline that talked of the "hindrance" of the language? Why cast two guests who do not speak Welsh to debate the merits of the language?
And with the BBC currently operating its largest outside broadcast after Wimbledon and Glastonbury at the eisteddfod, why did Newsnight not use this platform and its resources to conduct a more considered discussion?
Possibly the best contribution came from Professor Laura McAllister Wales Governance Centre, you can read it in the whole here.
On reflection, and from personal experience, I’ve concluded that most coverage can be traced back to one of two imperatives. The first, a “need” to do something on Wales (probably originating in some W1A style nations and regions memo along the lines, “Rupert, apparently there’s some wacky festival going on in that place the size of Wales where they dress up in nightgowns and brandish swords whilst dancing in clogs. Get one of our juniors to ring my pal, Geraint in Cardiff who was at Oxford with me and ask him to say something vaguely interesting and short in say, 30 secs max. Don’t put much energy into it obvs as no one really gives a ff” ).
The second is much more insidious and, at times, downright nasty, spiteful and even bullying. I experienced this directly in that fabulous summer of football last year when Wales reached the semi finals of the UEFA European Championships, in doing so defying pre-tournament predictions and, of progressing furthest of all of the home nations and the Republic of Ireland. Admittedly, I have a pretty wide selection to chose from in terms of the most patronising bids that came my way from network broadcasters. One (who shall remain nameless) asked how people in Wales could possibly afford to get to France for the semi final. Another asked how football had managed to thrive in Wales given everyone-yes, everyone- plays rugby. One asked if any of our players was a “nationalist”. Meanwhile, the bile of the press focused on the fact that some of Wales’s Euros stars like captain Ashley Williams, Hal Robson Kanu and Sam Vokes, had been born in England. This one is an interesting one as it captures a dominant theme that was also reflected in last night’s Newsnight piece, namely that Wales, and things Welsh, only matter in relation to England and its own interests and identity.
I would like to say that maybe Newsnight may have done us a favour in uniting much of Wales against such inept coverage.
Alas I doubt it the "Ruperts " that Ms McAllister refers to exist throughout the London Media and even in our own Welsh Media .
If only the Welsh Government could appoint some sort of Commissioner who could respond to attacks on the Welsh Language? Oh wait!