Welsh democracy suffers as broadcasting powers remain in London

Coverage of Wales in this General Election has once again been non-existent. A democracy cannot thrive in these circumstances, writes Delyth Jewell AM


Later tonight, leaders and representatives of seven political parties will be in the Senedd to take part in BBC One’s televised general election debate.


This will be the first time ever that such a debate has been broadcast from Wales, much less from the home of our democratically elected parliament. That in itself is something to celebrate, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price speaking up for Wales tonight.


But of course, the truth is that coverage of this general election has been so Brexit-centric, so London-centric that what’s happening here in Wales has barely got a look in. Notably, Adam Price was excluded from the Question Time Leaders’ Special. It’s also worth remembering that his set-piece interview with Jo Coburn was only broadcast in Wales.


Meanwhile, the other leaders’ interviews were broadcast across these islands.


There was also the planned exclusion of Plaid Cymru from last night’s historic debate on climate change on Channel 4. That broadcaster only changed its mind after intense pressure was brought on it by people here in Wales on social media.


So while tonight, we’ll see a debate taking place in the Senedd, the truth is that our broadcasting and media landscape is governed not by us, but by London. And while more and more people get their news and entertainment on social media and elsewhere online, broadcast media still has an enormous and important role to play.


Because a strong, pluralistic broadcast media is crucial to a properly functioning democracy.


We simply don’t have that here in Wales, and while that remains the case, the people of Wales will continue to be ill-served and misinformed by a London media and British establishment which simply don’t understand devolution.


The IWA’s own Media Policy Group says that “the ability of the media to report on… Welsh developments over [the period of devolution] has actually decreased”.


It further says that Wales “needs creative media policies from its own government, a holistic approach to both Welsh and English language media and appreciation at the UK level of the interests of Welsh media users and producers.”


Imagine what we could do if our Senedd could shape Wales’ media policies around the needs and interests of modern Wales as a flourishing democracy. Difficult as it may be, imagine what it would be like to hear news from Wales and the world not through the eyes of London, but through the eyes of our own country.


Imagine how it would feel to have our own analysis, our own national and international news programme, our own Newsnight. We could fund a plurality of Welsh- and English-medium news and current affairs programmes which have the ability and the resources to look with detail not just at Wales but wider afield too.


We could create the conditions for a strong and truly national printed press, as well as sustainable local media, which don’t have to chase clicks online just to survive. People here in Wales would certainly be able to have a better understanding of what happens in the Senedd, and about what powers are and aren’t in the Welsh Government’s hands.


And just think, though we have a debate here in Wales tonight, this is an exception rather than the rule. So we could insist that broadcasters host a debate here in Wales during every election, to which the UK leaders of all parties would be invited.


That way, the people of Wales would be able to judge for themselves how well those leaders know our communities and our needs. Apart from Adam Price, I’m not expecting that many of the leaders or representatives taking part in tonight’s debate will show much attention to the fact they’re in Wales.


And that, I’m afraid, is a symptom of the fact that our media landscape is designed not with Wales in mind, but London. It’s a symptom too of a Westminster establishment which has gotten away with ignoring Wales for generations.


In less than a fortnight’s time, we can change that. We can vote for ourselves. And yes, too, we can vote for a strong, sustainable, pluralistic, and bilingual Welsh media.


We won’t get that from London – it has to be us.



Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Delyth Jewell AM is Shadow Minister for Culture for Plaid Cymru

Also within Politics and Policy