Devolution of broadcasting a must say campaigners after UK Government threatens to scrap license fee

Picture by Tim Loudon (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Campaigners have claimed that the devolution of broadcasting powers to Wales is essential following the UK Government’s threat to scrap the license fee.

According to the Sunday Times, the UK Government wants to turn the BBC into a subscription service. At the moment, almost all BBC Wales and the majority of S4C funding comes from the licence fee.

Campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith says securing broadcasting powers for Wales is essential to sustain the country’s young devolution settlement. According to opinion polling, fewer than half of the Welsh public know that responsibility over health is devolved to the Senedd in Cardiff.

According to a YouGov opinion poll, 65% of people in Wales favour devolving powers over broadcasting to the Senedd in Cardiff.

“The Tories are running a vicious ideological war against public service broadcasting, and we in Wales must stand up to it,” Bethan Ruth, Chair of campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said.

“This is the climax of a decades-long deregulation of broadcasting and communications which has left our democracy, our language and our communities more poorly served, and all for the benefit of big business. The answer is simple: decisions over broadcasting in Welsh should be made by the people of Wales.

“For example, how on earth can the MP for Hertsmere be qualified to decide on the fate of Welsh broadcasting? It’s hurtful and insulting – how is he going to understand our situation?”

 

‘Not bluffing’

According to the Sunday Times, the blueprint being drawn up in government to change how the BBC operates will:

  • Scrap the licence fee and replace it with a subscription model
  • Force the BBC to sell off the vast majority of its 61 radio stations but safeguard Radio 3 and Radio 4
  • Scale back the BBC website
  • Invest more in the World Service

Ministers are already consulting on plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee from 2022 and have suggested the compulsory levy could be scrapped by 2027, when the BBC’s charter is set for renewal.

A senior source quoted in the Sunday Times said: “We are not bluffing on the licence fee. We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has to be a subscription model. They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

“They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job.”

‘Fight’

Bethan Ruth from Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that in the present environment, devolving powers over communications and broadcasting is even more essential to defend and strengthen public service broadcasting in Wales.

“It’s a fight for the future of our language, our communities and for our democracy. Democracy is impossible without powers over the media moving from Westminster to Cardiff and a media which reflects our values and our culture – so that we see the world through a Welsh window. Devolving the broadcasting system is as important as devolving the political system itself.

“We’re pleased to see more and more support from the Welsh Government and others for the campaign. Decisions about broadcasting in Wales should be made by the people of Wales. We’ve had enough of the Government in London cutting the Welsh media, and presiding over a system which gives so little attention to Wales and doesn’t reflect our lives.”

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has published a policy document exploring how to fund a devolved broadcasting system. Their document says that devolution would release extra funds for Welsh and community broadcasting via the licence fee and new levies on companies like Netflix, YouTube a Facebook.

They claim new digital ventures and extra Welsh TV and radio stations could be created when powers have been transferred from Westminster to the Senedd.

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Walter Huntj humphrysHuw DaviesDai HandSimon Gruffydd Recent comment authors
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John Ellis
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John Ellis

‘Bethan Ruth from Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that in the present environment, devolving powers over communications and broadcasting is even more essential to defend and strengthen public service broadcasting in Wales.’ Indeed – that was the first thing that struck me when I heard about this unattributed comment on the news today. Because you can bet that local coverage will be among the first things to be squeezed in any slimmed-down BBC. But this policy proposal – should we detect Mr Cumming’s hand here? – seems to be the first one since Bunter’s victory to have stirred up dissent among… Read more »

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has done a good job breaking down what it would take to run devolved broadcasting in Wales. However, any movement of power away from the Tories in London is being fought. The Tories hate the BBC and despise devolution – it’ll be like trying to get blood out of a stone getting more power devolved to Cardiff Bay. Don’t get me wrong we must push for devolved broadcasting but the going is going to be hard. So we have to get wealthy Welsh business people and celebrities involved with the independence cause, as has happened in Scotland.… Read more »

Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

Like “the Tories”, I too hate the BBC, although not devolution (in Principle). The BBC is such a poisonous source of propaganda it has probably done more to undermine Welsh culture in the past 50 years or so than anything else. Regulation of national media should have been part of the devolution package in 1997. But it’s not about money or business. It’s about providing channels for the Welsh nation to have a conversation with each other. Like this website for example.

Anwen Williams
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Anwen Williams

Stephen Bush states in The New Statesman today: “As Katy Balls pointed out…, Boris Johnson has long believed that reforming the BBC was a vital first step for the British right, writing in 2012 that if they couldn’t change the Beeb, they couldn’t change the country. So we should take Johnson’s commitment seriously, rather than seeing it as part of a psychodrama about which of his advisors he is listening to’. I trust that the Senedd is alert and ready to fight tooth and nail for our future, Johnson’s intention is perfectly clear. The BBC is a great brand but… Read more »

Robert Williams
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Robert Williams

‘If they couldn’t change the Beeb, they couldn’t change the country’ – that’s exactly right, Anwen, but the converse is even more true, and more sinister: if they can change the Beeb in the way that’s being mooted they will have changed the country disastrously, and removed a major obstacle to the complete commercialisation and monetisation of society. The NHS wouldn’t be around for much longer after that.

Ivan Dinsmore
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Ivan Dinsmore

The Tories are not running a vicious ideological war against public service broadcasting, they are waging a war against extreme left wing, pro EU, and anti British propaganda.

Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

That is the brutal truth – and of course the pro-EU, globalist types feel like they are being attacked. I suppose indirectly, they are. And rightly so. The loud-mouth minority has been running things far too long.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Ivan &Simon You are both wrong. The conflict you describe is between 2 wings of the same Establishment both very closely wedded to large scale corporatist visions which have been a work in progress for decades and is now reaching a critical juncture. Neither of these elitist regimes gives a tuppeny toss for anything to do with Wales viewing our future as almost totally a chance outcome dependent entirely on how other things pan out. That’s why likes of George Monbiot and other cranks are given the freedom to pitch for a “clearance experiment”( now “on hold”) as it would… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

But, I thought they had just staged an election coup!?

Dai Hand
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Dai Hand

Having read through several posts below it strikes me that we should be focusing and promoting the massively positive opportunity this gives Wales, rather than spending a single second bemoaning the historical and current challenges to achieve it.
I look forward to seeing loads of responses on the future opportunity this presents. It’s truly exciting in terms of national identity, Cymreicdod, and business, Let’s focus on how to get this done Cymry not why we currently don’t have it. ?????????

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

A few decades ago, my formula for Welsh TV broadcasting would have been: S1C (Cym.) and C2W (Eng.)- made in Wales for Wales and 2 global channels: one for international films, dramas and documentaries, one for popular soaps, sport and light entertainment. There are those who would like to see Auntie’s attempts at balance replaced by the British equivalents of Fox News. But scheduled broadcasting is losing its audience and the future is for the aspidistra to reclaim its place in the corner of the living room. For influencers the future is the internet.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

…………and ” Monarch Of the Glen” next on the wall? Nice touch, Walter.
I think your idea might take hold today, as Computers are active, whilst scheduled is relaxed, like books.
Nice formula, btw.

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

Btw the reference to the aspidistra comes from the book “The Biggest Aspidistra in the World; A Personal Celebration of Fifty Years of the BBC” by Peter Black (1972) written as a celebration of the BBC’s fiftieth anniversary in 1972. A picture of an aspidistra in the corner of a room featured on the front cover.