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Don’t blame Question Time for ignoring Wales – we need our own media

19 Jun 2018 4 minute read
David Dimbleby on Question Time. Picture by the BBC

Ifan Morgan Jones

David Dimbleby has confirmed that he’s standing down from Question Time after almost 25 years in the moderator’s chair.

I wonder if my hometown of Caernarfon, the location of last Thursday’s broadcast, was the straw that broke the camel’s back!

It has been suggested by many that perhaps it’s time Question Time itself retired, alongside its host. In these days of ‘fake news’ a panel of obfuscating politicians may not be the most informative medium.

But whatever Question Time’s fate, however, one thing is certain – there will be no more discussion of Wales on UK politics shows that there is now.

After last week’s episode, there was some anger, particularly by members of the Welsh Government, about the lack of Welsh issues discussed, and the lack of Welsh politicians on the panel.

But these complaints miss the central point, which is that Wales will always be marginalised when news is presented in a UK context.

The people of Wales make up 4.6% of the population of the UK. A program aimed at a UK market is always going to target the other 95.4% of the population.

We’re also a peripheral region in an over-centralised nation-state. As a result, almost nothing of any import to the rest of the UK happens in Welsh politics.

Question Time is made by Mentorn Media, which is part of Tinopolis, a company based in Llanelli. The Executive Charman, CEO and Chairman are all Welsh speakers.

They’re not ignorant of Welsh politics, they’re creating a programme for a UK audience.

Ignoring Wales isn’t an insult at all – it’s a perfectly reasonable calculation based on their intended audience.

For commercial media, there’s another reason to ignore Wales, which is that it’s a relatively poor country within the UK.

If you want to sell advertising, you’re going to target the South East of England and London, not Wales.

For these three reasons, UK media is essentially England’s media. The same ‘we’ we hear on UK media is the ‘we’ heard when the English football team takes the field.

If we want to hear about what is going on in Welsh politics, the answer isn’t to complain or beg UK media to pay more attention to Wales. It isn’t going to happen.

The answer is to have our own media, and make it of a high enough quality and relevant enough to the lives of people in Wales that they choose it over UK media.

Given that the commercial media market has consistently failed Wales, the only way to do this is to fund Welsh media through the taxpayer.

One way of going about this would be to devolve broadcasting. Or the Welsh Government could use already existing funds to finance, at arms length, a healthier print and online media.

The Welsh Government has a budget of £15bn. Just a few million more to let the people of Wales know what they’re up to would be money very well spent.

That would be a much more productive course of action than raging at Question Time.

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