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Language campaigners claim Minister’s letter proves BBC has lobbied against the devolution of broadcasting

15 Jan 2024 5 minute read
BBC Wales Director Rhuanedd Richards

Martin Shipton

Welsh language campaigners have renewed their allegation that the BBC has sought to undermine moves to see broadcasting powers devolved to Wales following the release of a letter written by Deputy Culture Minister Dawn Bowden.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) claims that BBC Wales Director Rhuanedd Richards has been lobbying the Welsh Government to oppose the recommendation of an expert panel that a Shadow Broadcasting Authority should be established in Wales as the first step in a staged devolution process. The allegation is vehemently denied by BBC Wales.

In August 2023, the expert panel chaired by broadcaster Melanie Doel and Professor Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones recommended that a Shadow Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales be established within 12 months.

The Welsh Government has already stated that it is in favour of the devolution of broadcasting, as part of its 2021 Cooperation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.

In a letter from Ms Bowden to Ms Richards dated October 16 2023, released following a freedom of information request, the Deputy Minister wrote: “I understand that you recently met with the First Minister and discussed the [expert panel’s] report and your comments with him.

As noted during that meeting, we are keen to continue to engage with stakeholders, including BBC Cymru, as we reflect on the contents of the report and respond to its recommendations. In the meantime, should you have any additional comments or if you would like to discuss this response further, my officials in Creative Wales would be happy to arrange a meeting with you.”

Contradiction

Cymdeithas yr Iaith claims that the letter contradicts BBC Wales’ stated position in response to earlier concerns it expressed to Nation.Cymru, when a BBC spokesperson said: “The Director of BBC Wales has not offered any view on the devolution of broadcasting nor on the creation of a Shadow Broadcasting Authority.

“The letter from Rhuanedd Richards to the Deputy Minister merely sought to correct and give context to some of the factual assertions in the published report.”

Mirain Owen, Deputy Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Digital Group, claimed the BBC’s earlier statement was “misleading”. She said: “Despite this statement, it is quite clear from the material we have received through our freedom of information request that a meeting took place between Rhuanedd Richards and the First Minister specifically to express an opinion on this important report and the future of broadcasting in Wales. It was misleading to claim that Ms Richards was merely correcting facts.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that the BBC has been running a coordinated campaign to prevent the powers of communication and broadcasting from coming to Wales. First, they tried to play down the letter they sent to the Minister, but now it has become clear that they have been meeting Ministers to lobby as well.

“Several opinion polls have shown that the people of Wales want broadcasting and communication powers in their hands, not those of broadcasters and politicians in London. The establishment of the Shadow Broadcasting Authority would be a decisive step in that direction by laying the infrastructure for full devolution of broadcasting.”

Response

In response to Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s request in October for a meeting with her, Ms Bowden said she would be prepared to meet with the organisation, but not until the new year, after the government has published its response to the report.

Ms Owen added: “The decisions that are about to be made regarding the Doel Jones Report are vital for the future of broadcasting in Wales, together with our democracy and our language. While reflecting on the conclusions of the report and the way forward, the government should receive views from a range of stakeholders and experts. Dealing with the BBC alone is not enough.”

Last month, dozens of people from the broadcasting and academic worlds wrote to the Welsh Government calling on it to implement the recommendations of its own independent report. The open letter included the signatures of prominent figures including Dafydd Iwan, Sharon Morgan, Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Carys Eleri, Professor Tom O’Malley and Meic Birtwistle.

Responding to Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s latest allegation, a spokesperson for BBC Wales said: “It is not true to suggest that Rhuanedd Richards expressed a view on the devolution of broadcasting or that she met with the First Minister specifically to discuss this matter.

“The Director of BBC Wales regularly meets politicians from all parties, including the First Minister, to discuss matters related to broadcasting. The Director had sent a letter to the Deputy Minister to offer further context to matters relating to BBC services which had emerged from the expert panel’s report; a letter which is in the public domain.”

A BBC Wales source suggested that Ms Richards had invited representatives of Cymdeithas yr Iaith to a meeting to discuss their concerns back in November, but that she hadn’t received a response.


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Another Richard
Another Richard
1 month ago

A little thought experiment: how would a Welsh Broadcasting Authority handle the current mess at S4C? Would it boldly and fearlessly tackle the problems there? Or would its instincts be to brush everything under the rug so as not to upset a cosy cartel?

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago

Defund the BBC

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Defund the BBC pay to view.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Not when the alternatives are the likes of the “Honourable Member for the 18th century” and Great Bigot News

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

You don’t have to listen to or pay for GB news. The BBC is a poll tax.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

If there was any popular support for the hard right position you espouse then parties committed to scrapping the license fee (like Nigel Farage’s Reform and Neil Hamilton’s Ukip) would have some meaningful electoral representation. Thankfully there’s zero popular support for those hard right parties at either Westminster or in the Senedd (just like Great Bigot news has zero viewing figures ☺️)

Last edited 1 month ago by Leigh Richards
Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

I’m not hard right I am red wall. I suspect you are uber left. The BBC has had its day. British broadcasting is no longer needed.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

I am most certainly not a fan of UKIP,as for Reform UK they are currently around 10% in the opinion polls which should in reality give them 60 seats in The House of Commons,of course the archaic first pass the post voting system will say otherwise. There change to the voting system in The Senedd could well end up giving the parties you have mentioned some representation. As for GB News having zero viewings figures, the current monthly viewing figures are 2,786,000. I don’t agree with everything on GB News so how can anyone debate the rights or wrongs of… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Although the BBC licence fee should be scrapped and those who wish to receive its programming could do it via a pay-per-view streaming service as done with BBC BritBox, Netfliix & Amazon ect.., Personally speaking , I’d happily subscribe not to watch GB News. Sorry, but It’s an open sewer full of talking turds. 💩 🥴👌 🇬🇧 #GBNews

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Graham Thomas
Graham Thomas
1 month ago

BBC = Bwrdd Bradychu Cymru.

Traitors who prop up the failed UK state.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Thomas

That would be the Welsh Uncle Toms who go on GBeebies hating devolution and praising Westminster.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago

The problem with these pro union British people from Wales is that although they are historically correct in that they are, and indeed all of us of being British, they fail to realise how the English have monopolised the term to suit their needs and those needs are in direct opposition to ours. The BBC is English in all but name, and it will never change. 1. We have to take back our historical names and terminology and 2. Demand the English revert back to referring to themselves as such. As if both nations are independent of each other, our… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

We pay through the nose with the BBC licence fee and get minimal representation, if that, on Network TV. A good example is the recent Covid pandemic. Scotland along with England announcements were broadcast on Network BBC where we were isolated to the BBC Wales region. And this applies programming. Both Scotland & England have programmes on BBC1 and Wales again isolated to BBC Wales region. Also, just look how England. Is overrepresented. They have numerous regional BBC TV stations and radio where Wales has effectively one. In reality Wales should have four instead of one to represent all four… Read more »

Daniel Davies
Daniel Davies
1 month ago

Of course the BBC want to stop devolution of broadcasting, they are a unionist organisation. It is convenient for them to employ people who make them look like they are not.

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