Sunday 22 September 2013

S4C and Carmarthen

This piece was going to be in Welsh, but it is likely that news that S4C is considering moving parts of its operations to either Gwynedd (most likely Caernarfon or its environs) or Carmarthen will have escaped the notice of many who do not follow the Welsh-language media.

The announcement that the channel is considering the move has been very well received, and the blogosphere is now humming with debate about the merits of the respective locations, although it is important to emphasize that the move is by no means a done deal.

Two groups have been asked to look at the ideas in more detail. One is being led by Gwynedd County Council, while the other is headed by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, rather than being entrusted to Carmarthenshire County Council. Carmarthenshire County Council's otherwise assertive PR operations have so far been strangely quiet about the whole thing.

In the meantime, there is genuine excitement at the prospect of a move, and if it happens it would be the first step towards realisation of the vision for the revitalisation of West Wales outlined by Adam Price, prospective AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, earlier this year (Adam's proposals can be found in Arfor - a region for the Welsh-speaking West).

If and when S4C has to decide between Caernarfon and Carmarthen, the choice will be a very difficult one because both towns have a strong case, and the language factor will be only one of the considerations.

Either way, the transfer to the West of well-paid and creative Welsh-speaking jobs would at least go a little way towards tackling the problem of lack of opportunity for talented and intelligent young Welsh speakers in the region.

Selfishly, most people in Carmarthenshire, the author of this blog included, would be very happy if S4C were to opt for Carmarthen, but it is legitimate to worry that one of the biggest handicaps we face is the body which is supposed to have the interests and economic and cultural well-being of our county at heart.

Despite the decline in numbers in Carmarthenshire saying that they can speak Welsh in the most recent census, the county still has a very large number of Welsh speakers. There are lots of ways of interpreting the census figures, but certainly if the urban and increasingly cosmopolitan population of Llanelli is taken out of the equation, Welsh speakers are in a majority in the county.

You would not think that if you were the senior management of S4C hoping to engage with the leadership of the county council.

The chief executive, despite being in post for over 10 years and apparently having agreed to learn the language as a condition of his appointment, is a monoglot English speaker. The council leader, Kevin Madge, almost never uses the language in public. His two deputies, Pam Palmer and Tegwen Devichand, speak no Welsh. The attitude towards the language of some of the other senior councillors on the ruling Executive Board is at best ambivalent and sometimes hostile. The Director of Regeneration, one of the most senior posts in the council, and the man with responsibility for economic development of the county, is another monoglot English speaker. Even the council's official mouthpiece, the head of the press office, is unable to communicate in Welsh.

And so it goes on. The County Council as it is currently constituted is led by a group which is simply unrepresentative of the people of the county.

That imbalance shows up most clearly in the council's vision and priorities. We export homegrown talent, and import social problems and over-paid officials to govern us.

Economic "regeneration" boils down to building large housing estates and retail developments, where the minimum wage is the norm and profits are sent back east. If you look through the council's press releases covering its regeneration schemes, you will quickly see that the council's preferred partners are anything other than local.

Debenhams, Nandos, Caffe Nero, Odeon Cinemas, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Robbie Savage, multinational property developers, the Simons Group and Taylor Wimpey. Regeneration? We're not so much building Jerusalem as a new Croydon in Carmarthenshire's green hills.

Carmarthen can thank its lucky stars that Trinity Saint David is putting its case forward rather than what anywhere else, such as Gwynedd, would have been the more obvious choice.


Jac o' the North, said...

With due respect to both Caernarfon and Carmarthen I don't understand why it has to be either. If it's Carmarthen, then there'll be some in the north complaining that it's in the south; while if it's in Caernarfon, the complaint will be that it's in the north. So why not Aberystwyth?

Cneifiwr said...

And if they chose Aberystwyth, people would complain that it was a cop-out. Plus Aber's got the university and a lot of Welsh govt. offices.

The consensus seems to be that a move is a good thing, and that wherever it ends up, it's better than not moving.

Anonymous said...

If they're thinking about Carmarthen I don't understand why they don't opt for Llanelli. Llanelli is already home to Tinopolis and will provide the opportunity to build a Welsh media base outside Cardiff. It will also raise the profile of the language in the town.

Anonymous said...

Free Money ? Carmarthenshire is a must for taxpayers money. Why on earth would S4C go anywhere else it can go to Sir Gar and have Euro millions and boost the decline in welsh. Remember Remember the Dinerwr park.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon 20.35 Nobody is suggesting that Carmarthenshire County Council would pick up the bill - rather it would stand to benefit unlike some of the council's own schemes.

Anonymous said...

I hope it comes to Carmarthen because I live not too far away and it will be a boost for the town both economically and linguistically. But I'm afraid that somewhere in Gwynedd is much more deserving.