The BBC And The Welsh Language, Self-Interested Discrimination

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.

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7 comments

  1. A Welsh language blogger has commented on the broadcast (1) and since there may be interesting parallels with Irish (and because I need the practise) here’s some of it translated :
    —————-
    About having to constantly justify our own existence

    I seems that Welsh speakers are pretty well under siege just now. Perhaps the attacks just seem more frequent than in the past because of social media. Ignorant fools are forever sharing their thoughts on the web, whereas before they would have remained private. And the very same networks act as a veritable call to arms for the Welsh, whenever they feel offended.

    OTOH the attacks may indeed have intensified. In the present political climate, with Brexit to a large extent giving England an identity crisis, it’s easy to assume that suspicion of diversity within the UK has seen an increase. Be that as it may, when yesterday afternoon the Newsnight program tweeted its intention to hold a discussion about the language (2), friends of Welsh could only expect the worst. But when the item was broadcast, it was even worse than the most pessimistic amongst us might have imagined (3). Two guests, neither of whom could speak Welsh, and one of them being an insignificant bigoted idiot with a mind like Katie Hopkins. No doubt many Welsh speakers are busy at the National Eisteddfod* just now, but that’s just silly.

    We should avoid conspiracy theories here. An item like this isn’t the result of deliberate hostility by the programme’s producers. The painful truth is that we’re just not important enough to warrant that. No, it’s simply a case of pure ignorance. It was obvious throughout the entire item that Evan Davis didn’t have a clue about the language; he suggested more than once that Welsh was some sort of hobby, rather than the natural medium through which hundreds of thousands of citizens conducted their daily lives. But it’s easy to understand why the reporters, producers and researchers of a programme like Newsnight are so ignorant; they’re English people based in London after all. As a rule, the Welsh language will never enter their thoughts. I have to say that seeing a programme like this totally messing up a subject I’m familiar with, makes me doubt their reporting of matters about which I know far less; in the same way that I no longer trust The Economist after reading this total shambles (4).

    I completely dispirited by all of this. Making a fuss and raising consciousness is the only answer, I suppose. Having to constantly justify our existence as a group within society, time and time again, really takes it out of you, but that would seem to be the only option. No one else is going to bring us justice, so we’ll just have to do the job ourselves. For obvious reasons, only Welsh speakers are able to fully appreciate what’s happening in regard to the language. Such is the nature of individual languages. We’re hardly to blame for that. All we can do is explain. Discuss the Welsh language in English, and everything else, naturally, in Welsh
    —————-
    (1) https://anffyddiaeth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/ynghylch-gorfod-cyfiawnhau-ein.html
    (2) https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight/status/895375213738807298
    (3) See video above in main post.
    (4) https://www.economist.com/news/britain/21611099-government-meddling-has-created-new-welsh-dialect-dragonian-measures
    *The major Welsh language and cultural festival which lasts a week or more.

  2. Apparently he also believes in something called Cosmic Ordering, where you order the cosmos to give you what you want. I’ve tried it but it doesn’t work. Noel Edmonds is still with us …

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