Leading figures from Welsh cultural and political life, including the Archbishop of Wales, the National Poet for Wales, and the opera singer Bryn Terfel, have signed an open letter to the UK Government calling for a restoration of £25m a year they say is being lost to English language television in Wales.
Declaring Welsh television to be in deep crisis they say they “cannot accept that a mantle of invisibility should be placed over Wales within what will remain the most important mass medium of communication.”
They argue that rescuing ITV Wales’s news service is not enough and that steps must be taken to rescue general programming in the English language. They urge that the restored funding should be channelled through a new Welsh Media Commission to provide a full range of programming to complement and compete with that provided by BBC Wales. They say:
“We must retain a capacity to talk to each other in our majority language, whether in drama, comedy, documentary, entertainment, satire or arts programmes. Welsh life is a rich novel, it cannot and should not be reduced to a ticker tape.”
The crisis in Welsh English language broadcasting has been brought about by the gradual, and now terminal decline in ITV Wales programming, and by severe cuts at BBC Wales. A consequence is that the annual value of television programming for Wales in English will have been reduced by £25m a year by 2012.
A television service for Wales
An open letter to the UK Government
Over past decades television broadcasting has been the most important medium of all for reflecting Wales to itself and an important outlet for its talents. Within tight constraints the BBC and HTV/ITV have served audiences in Wales in a spirit of public service and healthy competition. Their programming for Wales in the English language has commanded large mainstream audiences.
That English language service is now in deep crisis: in terminal decline in ITV programmes serving Wales and increasingly constrained at BBC Wales. While accepting that economic and technological conditions for television have changed irrevocably, we cannot accept that a mantle of invisibility should be placed over Wales within what will remain the most important mass medium of communication.
We are in full agreement with the Assembly Government’s view that “the current English language provision for Wales on television is not a defensible provision for a developed national community that brings to the table the sort of cultural legacy that Wales commands.”
On present projections the decline of recent years will continue for some years yet, reducing the annual value of programming for Wales by around £25m compared with the middle of this decade. It represents a major cultural setback, for this and future generations. That decline must be halted and reversed. Wales should no more be asked to dispense with this vital means of self-expression in a normal society than to jettison its National Museum.
We must retain a capacity to talk to each other in our majority language, whether in drama, comedy, documentary, entertainment, satire or arts programmes. Welsh life is a rich novel, it cannot and should not be reduced to a ticker tape.
Means must be found not only to sustain an effective competitor for the BBC in the field of news and current affairs, but also to guarantee the development of a substantial, diverse and high quality programme service that can reflect every aspect of Welsh life and talent through the English language.
We write to urge the Government at the very least to restore the value lost from broadcasting in Wales and to channel funding through a new and accountable multi-media Welsh Media Commission that can sustain a national culture and help steer media development in Wales flexibly in a period of vital change across traditional and new media.
- Dannie Abse, poet
- Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales
- Geraint Talfan Davies, Chairman, Institute of Welsh Affairs
- Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine, Cardiff University
- Trevor Fishlock, journalist and broadcaster
- Peter Florence, Director, Hay Festival
- Brenda Maddox, author
- David Melding, Assembly Member for South Wales Central
- Rt. Rev. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
- Elaine Morgan, author
- Professor Lord Morgan, historian
- Jan Morris, author
- John Pikoulis and Harri Prichard-Jones, Joint Chairs, Academi, the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency
- Lord Rowe-Beddoe, Chairman, Wales Millennium Centre
- Bryn Terfel, singer
- Dafydd Wigley, President of the national Library of Wales and former MP and AM.