License fee freeze ‘strengthens the case for the devolution of broadcasting’ says Mark Drakeford
The First Minister has said that the UK Government’s decision to freeze the license fee strengthens the case for the devolution of broadcasting.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford said that it was clear that the UK Culture Secretary hadn’t given a “moment’s thought” to the impact of her decision on Wales.
Yesterday, Nadine Dorries said that the license fee will remain at £159 until 2024, meaning that the BBC will need to make cuts due to inflation. She also said that the license fee settlement would be the BBC’s last and a new funding model would be found from 2027 onwards.
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price asked in the Senedd “isn’t now the time that we insist on our own voice, in our own nation, in broadcasting as in our democracy?”
Mark Drakeford replied: “Well, the absence of respect for Wales is clear within the UK Government. I’m sure, as Adam Price said, that Nadine Dorries hadn’t given a moment’s thought to the impact of her announcement on the Welsh language here in Wales.
“I saw what Professor Richard Wyn Jones said this morning about the future of the language in broadcasting and the importance of S4C, yes, of course, but also Radio Cymru, which is central to the use of the Welsh language here in Wales, and is so important to the future of the language too. In the co-operation agreement between ourselves and Plaid Cymru, we’ve already agreed that we should strengthen the case for devolving broadcasting, and establish an authority to help us, with others, along that journey.
“When we see the UK Government doing things such as what they’ve done, in haste and for solely political reasons, it does strengthen the case that we’ve set out already.”
Mark Drakeford also said that the “rushed announcement by Twitter” was motivated by Boris Johnson’s troubles as Prime Minister.
“It is part of a ‘dead meat’ strategy that this Government has embarked upon,” he said.
“If anybody thinks that there is serious thinking that lies behind what has been announced, then I’m afraid they’re going to be very badly disappointed.
“What we do now know for sure is that, at a time when inflation, due to the mismanagement of the economy by the UK Government, is likely to be at 6 or 7 per cent in April, the BBC are going to see their budget cut significantly in real terms, and the most urgent need, I think, is for a coalition of support to defend public funding for public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom.”
Prof. Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance, had on Sunday warned that the announcement was a threat to the futures of both S4C and Radio Cymru, which depended on the survival of public service broadcasting.
“More people in Wales consume public broadcasting than in any other part of the UK,” he wrote. “In terms of Welsh language broadcasting, BBC Radio Cymru and S4C are basically ‘it’ They are fundamental to the use and transmission of the language.
“Dorries’ announcement is an existential threat to the future of the Welsh language.”
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