Tory Knives out for S4C as History Repeats Itself
Byline: DAFYDD WIGLEY
THIRTY years ago this week, Wales celebrated a famous victory. The Thatcher Government had betrayed its 1979 election commitment of a Welsh television channel.
Gwynfor Evans, Plaid's veteran leader, had threatened to starve to death unless the Government delivered such a channel. Welsh programmes were then transmitted on BBC1 and HTV interspersed with English programmes.
This caused huge resentment. Viewers who didn't understand Welsh were irritated. So broadcasters scheduled Welsh programmes off-peak. Welsh speakers felt that their programmes were marginalised.
Representations from every party urged Mrs Thatcher to think again. No-one wanted Gwynfor to carry out his threat. Everyone knew that he had the commitment to do so. His death might have caused mayhem. Welsh Secretary Nicholas Edwards advised William Whitelaw (responsible for broadcasting) to climb down.
Welsh public figures united to ensure common sense prevailed. Welsh Office Minister Wyn Roberts had consistently opposed the Tories' policy change. In his book Right From The Start, Lord Roberts states he and Nicholas Edwards "did not like breaking (election) promises and fought against it as hard as we dared".
The Language Consensus, largely the work of Lord Roberts, involved establishing S4C, passing the 1993 Welsh Language Act and strengthening Welsh language education. This, more than anything else, gave Welsh Conservatives credibility in the National Assembly. Westminster Tory leaders will ignore this consensus at their peril.
S4C has had its ups and downs. It has transmitted brilliant programmes and sustained valuable jobs, many in Gwynedd. …