Coronavirus confusion demonstrates why we need to devolve broadcasting to Wales
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been watching the coronavirus pandemic unfold across the world, with day to day changes that impact all of our lives. Keeping up with the news and latest updates has been vital.
Yet how many of the people following the news so intently understand that vital decisions about the government’s response to coronavirus is being taken in Cardiff rather than London? It is so important to remember that Wales has devolved powers over health, education and business.
Yesterday, many waited to hear from the Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, in his daily briefings and from the Education Minister, Gaving Williamson (above), regarding school closures. However, education is a devolved matter in Wales – the Welsh Education Minister had already announced school closures earlier in the day.
However, there was no breaking news for this on UK-wide news channels and those who do not have access to social media or who closely follow Welsh politics online may have remained largely oblivious.
Furthermore, some of the measures to maintain the economy announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer which have been discussed at length on TV and radio will have no impact in Wales. Here Finance Minister Rebecca Evans and the Minister for Economy, Ken Skates have announced their own new £1.4bn business support package.
Last night we heard the news about how testing was being ramped up to 25,000 a day – in England. Today it was announced that coronavirus testing will be rolled out for all staff – in Wales. How many will know this?
This lack of broadcasting about what the Senedd are deciding and discussing is going to, if it hasn’t already, cause mass confusion. This is, unfortunately, something that people already feel with regards to the Senedd and times like this we can only foresee it will get worse.
Today the First Minister announced that Welsh ministers will be given sweeping new powers which will allow them to force people to self-isolate and shut down mass gatherings. Without the public being informed of what is going on in Welsh politics, how will they know about these decisions? How will they hold these ministers to account?
It is no longer enough to have a Welsh local news segment after the main ‘UK news’. People will be told that the UK Government is doing one thing (usually by journalists who do not differentiate between the UK and England), only to have this message contradicted by a shorter Welsh-specific news bulletin telling them that Wales is taking a different path, if they hear about it at all.
If broadcasting was devolved the dynamic would be reversed. People would still be told what the UK Government is doing but this information would be placed in the context of what measures will actually impact viewers’ lives in Wales.
Given that the coronavirus impacts the health of the elderly to a greater degree than the young, and that they are generally more dependent on traditional media for their news, the need to devolve broadcasting is even more urgent.
We’ve seen so much panic and distress over the last few weeks because people are just confused, no one knows what’s happening from one day to the next, and devolving broadcasting powers to Wales would be a big step towards solving this.
However it is likely over the next few years that global pandemics will be a pressing issue and will loom large in the public consciousness. With health devolved to Wales, people will need to know what the Senedd’s next steps are. We need to know how we, as a nation are going to deal with this pandemic, and others.
As it stands, the coronavirus epidemic has exposed what has been a chronic problem in Wales for too long, which is the weakness off the Welsh media and inability of the Welsh Government and Senedd to communicate its actions to the populace.
It is owed to the people of Wales that during such confusing and strange times that we be properly informed about how our government is tackling this pandemic and future crises.
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Spot on! And just actually heard on Sky that health is devolved in Wales so separate from the English death statistics – great a step forward, just to be told the new figures in the “Principality” are…!!!! We’re not governed by a prince!! So not a Principality, and contrary to indications sometimes on lawmaking, this is not the era of Henry VIII!
It’s frustrating in relation to agriculture too. I work for a small farmers’ union the, Landworkers’ Alliance, and often find that at UK wide agriculture events, it is not made clear when things only relate to England. They’re spoken about as if they apply to the whole UK meaning many people may not realise that agriculture is devolved.
Excellent article. I have printed it out and copied it to those friends I still have but whose email address is unknown to me. And I wish you would not call me Thomas. The English tend to think that everyone is known by their first name. I was called after my grandfather whose name was Thomas Howells. I have for the last 83 years been called Hywel. The error started with the NHS. As soon as I saw it I asked for it to be changed but was told (by a receptionist at my GP surgery) that that could not… Read more »
A very interesting article and one that speaks volumes for the way in which we represented. I don’t entirely blame the media however as the people of Wales also need to take responsibility too not least because the Daily Mail and the Sun have high readerships and many also watch Sky News. Whilst it was reported early on in the day that Wales had closed schools and had given a detailed reason as to why this was the case, by 5pm it was a represented as a Westminster policy that applied to the whole of the UK. I always watch… Read more »
The law should state, that “British” newspapers are obliged to publish info regarding Wales, if they are to distribute in Wales.
That is of course why it will not be allowed. Creating alienation between the people and the government will allow the anglos to effect the abolition of the Senedd once their population has sufficiently replaced ours.
Absolutely. The daughter of an acquaintance cried herself to sleep when she heard Gavin Williamson say that mock exam results would be used, at least in part, to award GCSE grades. This is not the case in Wales, but she didn’t know that.