Several readers, including Marconatrix, have drawn my attention to this discussion about Welsh language rights broadcast on Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship current affairs show, last Wednesday. The presenter, Evan Davis, introduces the item with the words “those keen on Welsh“, as if speaking the indigenous tongue of Wales was akin to having an interest in trainspotting, which probably tells you all you need to know about the debate which follows. While the BBC has subsequently apologised for the tone and content of the discussion the damage is already done.
As with RTÉ’s now infamous “investigation” into the Irish language shown on the Claire Byrne Live programme back in April, anglophone broadcasters have an invested interest in demeaning “rival” tongues which might conceivably challenge the domestic importance of their own. Monolingual English-speaking staff working for public service broadcasters in both Ireland and Britain have no desire to see the limited resources they receive from their respective governments being reallocated to competing television and radio networks. Networks working in languages and serving audiences “alien” to them. While the legacy of colonialism can be blamed for many things, one should not discount self-preservation as one factor maintaining the antipathy towards the Celtic tongues evident in the anglophone (or francophone) media and press of north-western Europe.