Plan to insist Welsh broadcasters produce ‘British’ shows slammed as ‘undemocratic and dangerous’
Plans by the UK Government to make it a legal requirement that public service broadcasters – which include S4C and BBC Wales – produce “distinctly British” programmes, have been described as undemocratic and dangerous by Wales’ National Communications Council.
The National Communications Council, which is made up of figures from within Wales’ broadcast industry, said that coverage of the pandemic proved that ‘British’ is more often than not defined by the mainstream media in terms of ‘English’.
A spokesperson on behalf of the Council said: “Here again we see a reason to urgently devolve broadcasting and communications powers to Wales. We call on our Labour Government to take decisive steps in this direction as a matter of urgency.”
The National Communication Council said they were currently working on fit-for-purpose communications and broadcasting regulations for Wales, which would pave the way for devolving broadcast powers.
Their response came after former Media minister John Whittingdale told a Royal Television Society conference last night that the government was planning to “talk to Ofcom about how to make the obligation of Britishness work”.
He said that “film, television and radio are by far the most powerful tools we have to project the best of modern Britain to the rest of the world”.
“If it’s set in Britain and made in Britain by our public service broadcasters, then it should be distinctively British,” he added.
Broadcast in the UK is state-regulated by Ofcom, which has the legal powers to fine a channel or withdraw its license to broadcast if it breaks Ofcom’s government-approved broadcasting code.
“Keeping the British spirit and identity alive is a challenge in today’s global broadcasting world, when investment is increasingly driven by global streaming services,” John Whittingdale said.
“Our public service broadcasters now get more money for drama from foreign investors than they spend themselves. That investment is extremely welcome – in fact, it’s absolutely crucial to their survival.
“But we want to make sure it doesn’t water down British creativity or the British brand.”
The speech was due to be given by Oliver Dowden before he was replaced as Culture Secretary by Nadine Dorries in yesterday’s reshuffle. John Whittingdale himself was replaced shortly after giving it.
In his speech before getting the axe, he referred to the Carry On films, Blackadder Goes Forth, Fleabag and Gogglebox as examples of British programmes.
It comes as campaigners have called for the devolution of powers over broadcasting to Wales.
Campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith say securing broadcasting powers for Wales is essential to sustain the country’s young devolution settlement.
According to a YouGov opinion poll, 65% of people in Wales favour devolving powers over broadcasting to the Senedd in Cardiff.