Monday, 10 October 2011

Duncan Barkes!

Who is Duncan Barkes you may ask? Well apart from being a current affairs blogger on Dale & Co (Iain Dale), he is also a radio broadcaster. One thing he is not is an expert on all things Welsh especially S4C; but that doesn't stop him writing some real rubbish in his most recent contribution to Mr Dale's blog - S4C should be privatised.
The blog is worth quoting in full just for its entertainment value:
There is much rumbling in the Valleys regarding S4C, the Welsh language television channel that you and I fork out for. Currently the channel receives a £100million grant from the Government. However, as of 2015 the funding will come from the BBC licence fee.

Either way, we are paying for something that is an unnecessary indulgence in these challenging economic times. I like the Welsh, especially their lamb, cider and music (the Manic Street Preachers being a personal favourite pop beat combo of mine), and one of the best evenings of my life was spent quaffing ale with the finest folk of Flintshire in the Blue Bell Inn, Halkyn.

I love the TV show ‘Gavin & Stacey’ which is partly set in Barry Island, and there are several unprintable things I would like to get up to with Welsh singing goddess Katherine Jenkins given half the chance.

Yes, my affection for the Welsh and their beautiful country is sound, but I do not believe that Wales should have its own television channel. In short, I am fed up with my money being used for projects or services that are no more than cultural or political vanity projects.

A study last year by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board revealed that 196 out of 890 programmes broadcast on S4C had ZERO audience. That’s right, from Cardiff to Anglesey thousands of Welsh people simply did not tune into vast chunks of the output of their dedicated TV channel.

The background to S4C is fascinating. It was set-up by the Conservative Government in 1982 when Channel 4 launched in the rest of Britain.
It was launched by Gwynor Evans, the then leader of Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, who threatened to starve himself to death if the station was not created.

Almost thirty years on and times have changed. And whilst there are still obviously Welsh speakers in the country there is clear evidence that increasingly there is no real appetite for a TV channel that broadcasts exclusively in the Welsh language. With the wealth of content also available online, surely a fresh outlook is called for.

The Government has made it clear that it can no longer afford to fund this luxury. It has cleverly passed the buck to the BBC, who will fund it through the licence fee that we are all forced to pay. I do not want my already extortionate licence fee to be used to underwrite a service that appeals to an increasing minority.

The BBC is complaining about the freeze of its licence fee and has announced many cuts in the last few days. If it had any sense it would either offer S4C as a subscription only service (then we would see how popular it really is) or hand the responsbility of it back to the Government with a suggestion that the service is privatised.

You and I should no longer be funding S4C. As the economy once again goes belly-up an obvious cut is surely the public funding of a niche TV channel that nobody seems to care much about.

Far more deserving of a blog is the excellent informed and accurate response by 'Iwan' to Barkes's rant:
*Sigh*. The S4C BARB viewing figures have been debunked many, many times by people who actually know what they're talking about, including the cross-party Welsh Affairs Committee. Yes, a lot of programmes registered as zero, but that's because during daytime S4C runs an award-winning service for pre-school children, and BARB doesn't count those children in its figures. They're actually very popular programmes.

So since the whole premise of this blog is a load of cobblers, it's hard to know how to respond.

Should public funds only be used to fund majority interests? That would mean cancelling all religious programming, all arts programming, all sports programming… even Eastenders isn't watched by a majority of the British public, should it too be cancelled as a minority interest? If not, where exactly would you draw the line? (And bear in mind that Pobol y Cwm, S4C's soap opera, is actually watched by a higher percentage of the available audience than Eastenders.)

You can either believe that some public funding for cultural initiatives is a good thing in general (whether you personally appreciate them or not), or you can believe that funding for S4C, opera, theatre, libraries etc (they're all pretty much in the same boat – appreciated by their audiences, not understood by anyone else), is inherently a bad thing. In which case you're probably a charlatan, but you may well have saved yourself a few pennies, to the cultural detriment of the country. Well done you.


Anonymous said...

>>>"The blog is worth quoting in full just for its entertainment value"

Actually I'm Welsh, but I don't see why this guy should be made fun of. If I was English, I'd want to know why my tax money was funding a channel in a language I can't understand and which (whatever you say) has a very small audience in Wales and has been severely mismanaged for a long time.

You invite us to laugh at how ill informed this guy is but in reality we should be alarmed that this is the commonplace English view of S4C.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

We are alarmed, but what is ridiculous is that he is allowed to spout his rubbish in what is normally a respected centre right blog. I think Iwan has answered in a rational way which I have acknowledged. I find it entertaining for its ridiculousness. He makes fun of the Welsh why should I roll over and accept what he says. You may want to acquiesce but I don't.

Simon ApCowell said...

S4C is a luxury provided many might think just to keep the Welshies quiet. Audience figures might suggest that the Weslhies are more likely to watch X-Factor than Y Waw Factor!

£100,000,000 would probably be able to enable 10+ channels on the Sky satellite system. So why the struggle to provide just one (Welsh Language) channel???!

For the very generous sum of £100,000,000 (about £33 per Welsh person-bear in mind many Welsh families pay Rupert Murdoch's Sky that sum every month!!!!) I would expect that the people of Wales should expect at least 2 distinctive Welsh channels - 1 in Welsh and 1 in English.

S4C at £100M a year is very expensive. To defend that figure is very hard. £100M should provide the people of Wales with at least 2 quality channels in both Welsh and English.

I am a Welsh man who does not speak Welsh (like the majority of people in Wales.) I am also keen to promote and hopefully one day learn the language like I believe are many people in Wales. Why should vast sums of money go into providing Welsh tv that is made just for the 20/25% of the population. The rest of the 75/80% of us in Wales will be left with no alternative but to watch UK (ie. English!) coverage.

If you want to live in a country where culture is the latest Simon Cowell programme then just do nothing.

If you want a truly devolved tv system for Wales then let your AM or MP know that Wales should have control of the licence fees of the people of Wales. Only then will we have a TV system that is fit for purpose for the future of the people of Wales!

If Welsh is to survive it will not be because we have a channel that few watch, it will be because it is the language used in the pub or the church or chapel or the school playground, or the football or rugby pitch. We all want Welsh to prosper and thrive and grow - what we don't want is an overly expensive social and political experiment to develop at the indefensivible sum of £100M!!!!

Anonymous said...

Where does he "make fun of the Welsh" in that passage? Show me.

>>>"what is ridiculous is that he is allowed to spout his rubbish"

He points out that the BARB report says some shows had Zero viewers. This is apparently the truth as daytime children audiences are not counted... so what "rubbish" is he spouting? He's correctly represented what is in the BARB report. And anyhow, how should the English be expected to know every in and out of the BARB report on S4C anyway?

"I find it entertaining for its ridiculousness"

What ridiculousness? Does the BARB report say that some shows have zero viewers or not?

If you want to preserve S4C you need to realise that unless the Assembly takes on the burden of S4C (which I am in favor of) you need the general English public on your side.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Follow this link for a better understanding of S4C viewing figures:

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

...and some more:

Cneifiwr said...

This was a shoddy, lazy piece written by a buffoon ("quaffing ale", etc.). Shoddy because it relies on stereotypes ("rumbling in the Valleys") and lazy because he is just recycling material he has picked up elsewhere, clearly hasn't bothered to try to watch the channel, speak to anyone who does, analysed its output or checked any of his "facts".

Welsh people too pay for lots of things we don't necessarily want - the Olympic Games, the Royal Opera House, the Household Cavalry, for example.

S4C has had more than its fair share of problems, but I would hope everyone in Wales, Welsh-speaking or not, would take a little time to have a look at its output. There are no other channels in Britain that offer the range and depth that S4C does - it really tries to cater for all tastes and interests. Sometimes it flops, but many of its programmes are as good as anything produced by the English channels.
That's something we can all be proud of, whatever our language.

Anonymous said...

'He's correctly represented what the BARB reports says'

I think you mean mis-repesented, don't you?

Also, why should I pay a licence fee for a service that pays only lip service to my needs a welshman. Very poor coverage of news and events here. If it wasn't for s4c I doubt there would be any coverage at all.