Plaid urges BBC managers to protect Welsh medium current affairs


Welsh language current affairs programming plays essential role in nation’s democracy

Plaid Cymru’s culture and broadcasting spokesperson, Bethan Jenkins AM, has written to the new director of BBC Wales to urge him to consider the vital role that Welsh language current affairs broadcasting plays in the nation’s democracy.

Ms Jenkins, who is the Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, expressed concern that rumoured plans by BBC senior managers to cut programmes like Manylu and Taro Naw would damage the ability to hold Wales’ politicians to account. The Plaid Cymru AM added that with the National Assembly’s new law making powers, it is more important than ever to have full media coverage of Welsh politics so that the public is able to scrutinise the work of politicians.

Recent reports in the Welsh media have raised speculation that senior BBC managers are planning to make significant cuts to BBC Wales’ welsh medium output. Bethan Jenkins AM contrasted this with statements from the chairman of the BBC, Chris Patten, who has said that protecting Arabic, Somali and Hindi services on BBC world service should be a priority and from BBC director General, Mark Thompson, who has said that programmes like Newsnight and Question Time will be protected.

Plaid Cymru Culture and Broadcasting spokesperson, Bethan Jenkins AM said:

“Current affairs broadcasting plays a hugely important role in the public’s participation in democratic processes. This is especially important for the people of Wales now that the Assembly has full law making powers. It has become ever more important that people are able to hold their politicians fully to account, and the media is an important vehicle for doing this. I am very concerned that the rumoured plans to cut Welsh medium output could create a democratic vacuum.

“Chris Patten has highlighted how important Arabic, Somali and Hindi services are to the speakers of those languages and I fail to see why Welsh should be treated any differently. And the importance of current affairs broadcasting has been recognised by Mark Thompson who has pledged to protect programmes like Newsnight and Question Time, this principle should also apply in Wales.

“Of course I recognise that the BBC is being forced by the Tory Lib Dem UK government to make big cuts. However I still urge BBC Wales managers to look at the long term impact on, and damage to, our democracy that cutting Welsh medium current affairs programming would have.

“The new director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, has since written back to me. While he sympathises with my concerns, the matter is still the subject of negotiations, so it is important that managers both here in Wales and anyone else involved in deciding budgets realise that this remains an important issue for Welsh public life and how people engage with it.”