Wales not well-represented on BBC television, says content chief

Sian Gwynedd (right) and Angharad Mair (second from lefft) on the panel.

There hasn’t been enough content depicting Wales on the corporations’ UK-wide channels, according to BBC Wales’ Head of Content.

Although many BBC programmes were made in Wales, such as Dr Who and Casualty, Welsh life was very seldom depicted in them, she said.

She added that the BBC had a duty to present the history of Wales to the people of the country, but also to a UK-wide audience.

Sian Gwynedd was speaking at an event organised by Cardiff University at the National Eisteddfod today.

Presenter Angharad Mair, who was also on the panel, said that there was a tendency to present the Welsh people like “monkeys in a zoo” on programmes presented by outsiders.

“Not only are we not depicted enough, but I’m also disappointed with the way we’re depicted,” she said.

“We don’t complain enough,” she added, noting that the BBC went to greater lengths to placate their audience in Scotland.

Not fielding presenters who had an intimate understanding of Welsh culture betrayed a lack of confidence in ourselves, she said.

Sian Gwynedd said that there had recently been an increase in the use of Welsh presenters, such as Nigel Owens, fronting UK-wide programmes.

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  1. Is it just me, or does the Welsh in the image used at the top carry the sense that Cardiff University is not in Wales, but merely connected to it?
    “A strong connection between Cardiff University and Wales” would be how I would translate that.

    Perhaps “Prifysgol Caerdydd: cysylltiedig â Chymru” would be better? It would certainly be more concise, and show off the Welsh language in a better light (we really don’t need all those characters, you know!)

  2. Prifysgol Caerdydd…Cardiff uni have been kicking and screaming for many decades not to bother using any thing Welsh or Welsh language…..they only recently bowed to recent pressure and have a second class Welsh language policy now

  3. Sibrydionmawr

    In a sense Cardiff University’s ambivalence towards Wales is only an echo of Cardiff’s ambivalence towards the country it’s supposed to be capital of. It revels in it’s status of capital, but it is reticent in the extreme about the Welsh connection. The university in Cardiff was for a long time trying to sever the links with the University of Wales, and several times tried to break free. The allowing of Wales’ universities to become standalones and allowing the planned demise of the University of Wales must be seen as a retrograde step in a country that needs every national institution it can hold on to. Since devolution we’ve seen the dissolution of our national university, and also our national museum that used once to be institutions that proudly stated their connection with Wales, and not merely their location in the country.

    Rather than challenge and oppose these moves, brought in by successive Welsh Labour governments, Plaid Cymru has shown it’s essentially supine nature, and prominent members, such as Elis Thomas have even applauded these moves, asserting that such national institutions are retrogressive.

    So, in a sense, Cardiff University’s statement that is merely connected to Wales is just a reflection of Cardiff itself merely being connected to Wales.

    In a free Wales I hope that it will be a requirement that all higher education institutions be obliged to be part of a federal, national system awarding nationally accredited qualifications and that the capital is moved to somewhere more deserving of the title.

  4. MartinEvans

    I was at UCC in the 1980s and one campaign that Y Gym Gym ran was Cymraeg yn y goleg. Yes you could do Welsh courses but the whole feel of UCC and Uwist was overly British. As for the tv I live in Stockport and there are many Welsh shows that never made the national network such as Belonging, High Hopes and the show based around a bakery. The English Version of Hinterland only makes BBC 4 so we can have Belgian drama the whole Scandi noir but 3 series of 35 diwrnod have been shown on S4C and those could be shown on BBC 4 with subtitles.

    • Sibrydionmawr

      I too was in UCC in the 80s, though it was the late 80s and my time there spanned the transmogrification from UCC to UWCoC. It was still overly British, but then the university in Cardiff had been trying for years to leave the University of Wales federal structure. We as a nation are so much more worse off now that the University of Wales is being dismembered. A free Wales should reconstitute the national university and oblige all universities in Wales to be federated to it.

      I’ve posted comments to this effect before, and will reiterate them here. There were nine series of Belonging, that was never syndicated to be broadcast all over the UK, and no DVD of the series was ever released. In my opinion it was of a great standard, and some of the best drama ever produced by BBC Wales. It was made with just Wales in mind, and thus was truly Wales speaking to Wales without having to have filter to make it accessible to an audience that wasn’t Welsh. It was also a series aimed predominantly at English speaking Wales, with characters that were authentic in a way that Welsh people could believe in them. It certainly deserved to be networked, and at the very least should have been available on DVD. Ditto with Baker Boys, once again a drama series set in Wales and predominantly aimed at a Welsh audience. It also had a very interesting plot, where a radical solution to redundancy and unemployment was taken by the workers – perhaps we need an update on how the bakery is now doing – plenty of scope for a positive take on worker led solutions to the economic chaos of unreformed capitalism? Once again, should have been networked and made available on DVD.

      Most glaringly, none of the output from Wales’ film and TV industry is available to stream online, which is a pretty glaring omission when one considers that Iceland, a country with a population little bigger than Cardiff has an online streaming service for Icelandic film and TV. Is it beyond the whit of the combined forces of S4C, ITV and the BBC in Wales to come together and offer such an accessible archive to a new, and worldwide audience? Try looking for Welsh films on the web, and all you’ll find are illegal torrents of DVD or VHS standard downloads of a very few Welsh films, such as Hedd Wyn or Solomon a Gaenor. Where are the HD streams of officially sanctioned content that we can download or stream? To be genuinely accessible however, it would need to be priced at a low cost. The content has already been paid for, so there is no need to be greedy. Of course, such a service would need to cover it’s costs, and any surplus perhaps used to make more films that are primarily made for consumption within Wales. I firmly believe that countries make the best kinds of drama they can when primarily speaking to themselves, and not with an eye on export sales. Thus series like The Killing and The Bridge were made as co-productions, they work best because they were firmly aimed at their target audiences, wheras I consider the main weakness of Hinterland is that it was made with one eye on the English language market. This perhaps compromised an otherwise good drama. Paradoxically, Hinterland proved popular in England before it was networked in the bilingual version, as people were quite happy to watch it on satellite on S4C with subtitles! Maybe this should be seen as a positive sign to makers of television drama in Wales, that there is no longer any need to worry about making an English language version when a drama holds it’s own in Welsh with subtitles?

  5. We should be demanding our own media yesterday!

  6. CambroUiDunlainge

    I don’t think this is just down to BBC. After the success of Hinterland S4C have gone into making a new TV show based in Wales which is also a police drama – not very adventurous. Our history is full of drama that can equal Game of Thrones if only BBC or Sky would take the time to take notice – reason i’d say historical drama? Because Northern Ireland benefited greatly from doing GoT. We could benefit greatly by attracting people to the actual castles represented in a potential history drama.

    Though even when there are history documentaries on BBC and Channel 5 it seems to skirt around Wales existing. We just don’t exist.

  7. My impression is that Hinterland was squeezed out in the end because there never was adequate funding in the kitty. S4C is desperately short of money, and BBC Wales helps it out by promising broadcasting slots and committing modest sums, but series like Hinterland, with top scripts, good actors and high production values need support and security, and I’m not sure that was what they got. Not surprisingly, the key players have gone off to make their fortunes elsewhere. And the best of luck to them.

    Of course there are fabulous Welsh narratives out there waiting to be told to the world — and all credit to Michael Sheen for flagging this up whenever he gets the chance. But the Welsh Government appears not to be confident enough to force those who make films IN Wales to make films ABOUT Wales and FOR Wales……. We have wonderful studios, magnificent scenery, skilled production teams and fabulous stories to tell, but the film industry in Wales seems to treat our country as a good place to tell other people’s stories.

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