BBC should do more to promote Cornwall’s unique identity, ministers hear
The BBC and media watchdog Ofcom should be required to do more to help promote and protect Cornish identity and culture, ministers have been told.
Steve Double, the Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said he wanted to see more programming on the BBC which reflected Cornwall’s history, heritage and language, rather than “adverts for more second homeowners”.
As MPs considered the Media Bill, which aims to update broadcasting laws for the streaming age, Mr Double gave his backing to an amendment from Conservative former cabinet minister George Eustice, aimed at ensuring national minorities like the Cornish are represented in public service television and radio.
The Cornish were recognised as a national minority by the Government in 2014, with the aim of giving the regional identity special protection.
In the Commons, former environment minister Mr Double said the Bill represented a chance to do “something tangible” for this status.
He said: “It is quite clear that Cornwall has a history, a heritage, a culture that is distinct from England, distinct within the UK, that in many ways is unique, and that we actually have far more in common with our Celtic cousins around the fringe of the UK.”
The Cornish MP said there had been “fresh interest in Cornish culture and history in recent years” due to the appeal of programmes like the BBC’s Poldark.
He added: “But what I would say is what we are looking for is programmes that really present the picture of true Cornwall and our history, our heritage and culture.
“What we don’t want is programmes which I could perhaps describe as adverts for more second homeowners that just present the sort of picture postcard, idealistic view of Cornwall.”
Mr Double went on: “I am not calling for our own station like they have in Scotland and Wales, I am not going that far, but I do think there is more that can be done to actually put an expectation on the BBC to give due regard to the protected national minority status that the Cornish have when looking at their public service broadcast responsibilities.”
Mr Eustice, the MP for Camborne and Redruth, said recognition of Cornwall’s special status by the BBC could lead the public broadcaster to “approach to local radio” differently, adding: “At the moment it just treats it like it is any old other part of England.”
He did not press his amendment to a vote, but SNP culture spokesman John Nicolson gave his support to the plans, adding: “I am not quite sure how four countries can be described as a fringe, I mean rather I would call us the anchor that holds the Anglo-Saxon peninsular otherwise known as England.”
Culture minister Julia Lopez, replying to Mr Double, said: “I’m glad to say that culture and heritage are directly addressed in the updated public service remit for television and therefore Ofcom is required to ensure that public service broadcasters collectively make available content reflecting the cultural interests and traditions of the UK and of different local areas within the UK.
“I should expect that to include Cornwall.”
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