by Julian Ruck
The Welsh-speaking Crachach (or Taffia depending on your point of view) are up to their usual old tricks again. You know, keeping it in the family, jobs for this life and the next and not what you know but who you know.
The Silk commission is looking into the devolution settlement and the powers of the National Assembly of Wales. Also on the Commission’s radar is the much debated control of the Welsh media.
Not long ago, I interviewed one Lee Waters, director of the ‘independent’ Welsh think tank, the Institute of Welsh Affairs. The purpose of the interview was to explore the abject lack of diversity and indeed equal opportunity that appears to exist in Welsh governing institutions. There was also the question relating to whether or not the push for Welsh language nationalism was having a negative impact on the Welsh economy.
Mr Waters immediately accepted that there was a problem here ie that Welsh institutions are run mainly by white, Welsh speaking, middle class and Welsh educated personnel. However, he followed this up with the more facile excuse that “Wales has the same problems as all other Western societies.”
So then, one can conclude that in his view, a white Dai Berlosconi or a white Dai Chirac is fine because everyone else is at it? The nasty Tories also came in for some passionate opprobrium from the independently minded Waters too. Quite obviously a man who prides himself on apolitical inclination if ever there was one!
A simple case of denial perhaps? But then the Welsh Crachach are resilient if nothing else
It must be pointed out here that Mr Waters is himself a Taffia warrior with impeccable Crachach credentials. His responses generally to this particular interlocutor could only be described as bullishly defensive whilst at the same time being sneakily evasive. White, Welsh speaking and yet another alumnus (as if one would expect anything less?) of a Welsh university madrassa, and previous political sidekick of our old friend Carwyn Jones, the gentleman also has a history in Welsh media – naturally. A common denominator or two here where another Crachach acolyte is concerned, one Emma Watkins, director of the independent lobbying Welsh organisation, CBI Wales no less. Perhaps the word ‘independent’ has a different meaning when translated into Welsh?
Now before readers of Uncut begin to wonder if this is Ruck traipsing off to la la land then do note the following email I sent to the loquacious Mr Waters (one can forgive him this, he is Welsh after all) post interview, it adds a certain Celtic piquancy to this pot of simmering cronyism and jokey ‘independence’.
Copy of email sent 17.23 November 21st 2013
Dear Mr Waters,
Before writing a column for Uncut and in the interests of accuracy, will you please confirm that following your interview, you are of the view that post- devolution Wales suffers the same problems as the rest of Europe?
Also, would you be good enough to confirm that last year the IWA refused to comment on or debate the issues relating to taxpayer funding of Welsh literary endeavour etc
If no reply is forthcoming then I will assume the above to be the case.
Thank you for your time,
There was of course no reply and Mr Waters will no doubt confirm this. So why you must be wondering, would the good director refuse to respond to a perfectly reasonable request? After all, the IWA prides itself on being an independent and above any kind of political partisanship think tank and supposed reputable forum for honest public debate?
The answer may lie in the fact, that it is a recipient of Welsh government funding, and that one of its founding fathers is none other than our old friend ex-BBC Wales controller Geraint Talfan Davies (now chairman of the Welsh National Opera and father of the present director of BBC Wales, you have to hand it to them, these Crachach boyos get around, don’t they just!), who had his very own autobiography paid for by the taxpayer five years ago. Title of this learned tome? Yes you’ve got it: “At Arms Length!”
And the IWA is supposed to be above the winning of friends and favour in Cardiff coffee house intellectual circles – albeit that it receives tax-payer bungs and many of its members belong to Welsh institutions intent on maintaining exclusive Welsh speaking Crachach elitism and jobs for the boys security- many of these ‘members’ have also been admirably loyal passengers on the Taffy Express taxpayers’ gravy train too, you know the sort of thing, arts grants, bursaries etc etc.
Thus the blatant and shifty refusal over a year ago to join me in any kind of public debate re the taxpayer and Welsh arts funding and in spite of these issues being exposed in the national press and on national television.
They really are ‘all in it together’!
I have digressed slightly here for which I duly apologise, but let me now bring you back to the thorny issue of who should control the Welsh media (such as it is) and what the laverbread coated, cockled up and Mabinogion obsessed wise men at the IWA have to say about it?
The Welsh language TV channel S4C (which in the words of Jeremy Hunt, ‘no-one watches’ and which indeed has zero audience figures for some of its programmes) should be devolved to the Welsh government – well, we all know what that means: Let’s throw billions at it and keep our fingers crossed but for God’s sake don’t upset the subsidised Welsh language writers and broadcast apparatchiks who don’t have to compete in a normal commercial environment and must always be allowed to wallow in their self-important if deluded and astonishingly inept steamy mud-baths of taxpayer largesse.
Independent investigations over management skulduggery, sneaky funding arrangements (and by the way it’s all UK BBC licence fee payers who fork up for 95% plus of S4C’s funding, albeit that it has less than 1% of the TV viewing audience, and this is on a good day!) and wholesale minority tyranny are the name of the game where S4C is concerned. As for scrutiny and accountability, don’t be silly, this is Wales.
I’m all for the preservation of the Welsh language and using subsidy to further this aim, but throwing billions at lost causes that are both ineffectual and where people are struggling to put food on the table is simply not the way, and you can be sure of one thing, if the Welsh government gets a grip on Welsh broadcasting then there will be more Welsh language content and nationalist angst in mainstream English language channels – BBC Wales will be up for this, guaranteed*.
Carwyn’s team druid is more than particular when it comes to responding to Freedom of Information requests, its ‘Ministers’ won’t be interviewed, ‘openness’ and honesty are not in the Dai Johnson lexicon and to cap it all, most Welsh politicos only watch the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing anyway!
Wales is already one of Europe’s most public sector dependent economies, all Welsh Labour will do is lob billions at broadcasting failure and wait for redemption from a Ouija board, just like it always does. On the other hand, it might yet again recruit news reader Huw Edwards to dish out another load of Welsh historical garbage and propaganda in order to hide its sacred but chinless tracks.
Devolved Welsh broadcasting powers?
God help the Welsh.
NB Aled Eirug, a member of the S4C Authority, is able to give his views to ‘private’ Welsh literary meetings (keeping it in the subsidised family again, perhaps?), but sadly is unable to voice an opinion for Uncut as this may be considered ‘public’? And there’s me thinking S4C is a publicly funded organisation and therefore subject to public scrutiny, but then the Crachach do tend to be a trifle reticent where exposure outside a Welsh media comfort zone is concerned.
Julian Ruck is an author, journalist and columnist. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media