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New S4C farming presenter proud ‘ethnicity not part of the conversation’ after Countryfile complaints

22 Jan 2022 4 minutes Read
Melanie Carmen Owen today, left, and as a little girl, right

The new presenter of a Welsh language farming TV show has said that she is “incredibly proud” to be part of the programme and glad that her ethnicity was “not part of the conversation”.

Melanie Carmen Owen said that she had felt “worried about whether I belong to this community that I love so much” after a BBC Countryfile segment about a black women’s walking group received a large number of complaints last year.

Announcing that she was the new face of S4C programme Ffermio she posted an “emotional essay” to social media saying she was glad to have been chosen as a “Welshwoman who is passionate about agriculture”.

“Being on Ffermio is a bit of a dream come true,” she told Nation.Cymru. “I get to share my insight into the world I grew up in and the community I feel so proud to be a part of.

“I’m looking forward to chatting to lots of young farmers and finding out what the next generation really feel about the agricultural landscape in Wales. Welsh farming has the potential for a fantastic future, so I cannot wait to meet those young minds who will drive that forward.

“I personally feel incredibly grateful to S4C and Telesgop, not only for choosing me, but for not making this about me being brown. I bang on about representation all the time, because I grew up not seeing myself reflected in the Welsh media and that definitely affected how I viewed myself and my Welsh identity.

“But the representation has to be authentic. Neither S4C nor Telesgop have even raised my ethnicity once, because they have recognised that I am more than a mixed-race presenter. I am a young woman from a farming family with a passion for agriculture and its future in Wales.

“I hope I can use those qualities to bring to the fore the voices of Wales’s farmers of the future.”

‘Welcomed’

She however added that she was not saying that her “ethnicity is irrelevant”.

“Of course, it’s a factor because black and other ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the countryside. Last year, an episode of Countryfile received a deluge of complaints, simply for showing a walking group for Black people, encouraging them to enjoy the countryside.

“The fact that it was one of the most complained-about moments on British TV last year, only goes to emphasise why I’ve often worried as to how much I belong in this community that I love so much.

“So for S4C and Telesgop to choose me, with ethnicity not even being a part of the conversation, makes me feel incredibly proud.”

The BBC had hit back against the complaints about the Countryfile feature last year.

The Countryfile segment, presented by Anita Rani, had introduced viewers to Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of the Black Girls Hike group , which provides Black women with a safe space to explore the outdoors.

Responding to the complaints, a statement from BBC bosses said: “The feature on the walking group was part of a programme where the overall theme was to encourage people to make more of their connection with the British countryside during the coming year, including trying to get outdoors more to exercise where possible.

“For a variety of reasons, as the presenter explained, it has been the case that historically some groups have felt less able than others to take part in outdoor activities such as hiking or mountain walking, so any initiative which seeks to redress that balance is to be welcomed.

“The walking group in this programme is one such initiative and is a reminder that not only is the beauty of the British countryside there for everyone to appreciate, but that all are welcome to enjoy it and to safeguard its wildlife, landscape, and traditions for the future.”


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