Police chief criticises BBC boss for 'patronising attitude' towards Welsh and Cymdeithas yr Iaith call for boycott of BBC Licence fee in Wales

The repercussions continue following the disastrous Newsnight (BBC's flagship current affairs programme), broadcast of a supposed debate about the Welsh language. Protests arose as soon as the programme, which asked whether the Welsh language was “a help or hindrance to the nation.” came off air. The discussion on August 9 did not even include anyone who could speak the Welsh language. The BBC then expressed its regret and conceded the programme would have “benefited from more thorough analysis and debate.” The apology was couched in the usual reluctant BBC manner.

North Wales’ Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, was one of those who complained about the programme. In his letter he accused Newsnight of discussing Welsh in “a childish, derogatory and irresponsible way”. Now as reported in the Welsh newspaper the Daily Post the Commissioner has described the response to his complaint from Newsnight editor Ian Katz as “patronising”. Ian Katz had replied claiming they had invited the Welsh Language Commissioner and the Welsh Language Society “but they were sadly unable or unwilling to participate.” He went on to say:

“I would strongly argue that the question of whether the public promotion of the Welsh language is effective and beneficial to Wales is a perfectly legitimate subject of a debate.

“We should have approached it with more subtlety, I agree, but there is a whiff in some of the response to our item of an unwillingness to even countenance such an impertinent question. And that’s not healthy for anyone.”

Arfon Jones has described the response from Ian Katz as "extremely patronising and superior in its attitude." When the Commisioner posted the reply on Twitter many agreed with him. As Arfon Jones poinits out: 

"The programme set out to question how much money is spent on promoting the Welsh language but no-one considers how much is spent on promoting English.

“It is typical of the patronising attitude of many people in the upper levels of the BBC towards languages like Welsh and Gaelic.”

Meanwhile others in Wales including the Welsh language campaigning organisation Cymdeithas yr Iaith have called for a boycott of the BBC Licence fee. Cymdeithas chair Heledd Gwyndaf has now stated that contrary to Mr Katz’ assertion Cymdeithas was “unwilling or unable”’ to take part, she had in fact agreed to the interview, offering to go to the BBC’s Eisteddfod or Bangor studios. Heledd Gwyndaf said:

 “This is part of a pattern of belittling and disparaging Wales and the Welsh language by the BBC. The reply is factually incorrect, arrogant and insulting.

"Indeed, the letter claims it is valid to discuss whether a Government should attempt to revive a minoritised language or not - that’s basic prejudice. That may be the view of some of the most reactionary people in other countries, but it is not the mainstream debate in Wales.

“It’s clearer than ever now that devolving broadcasting to Wales is the only way to solve these problems in a meaningful, permanent way. But, it has to be said that this letter is so shocking, I believe the editor should be sacked for his prejudiced and insulting language.

“More and more people in Wales are seeing that we shouldn’t be paying the our licence fee to fund staff and programmes like this and a British broadcaster which is so anti-Welsh.

"We will be encouraging people who are angry about this to join the boycott of the licence fee until broadcasting is devolved to Wales.”

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