Welsh broadcasting campaigner faces jail over TV licence protest

Eiris Llywelyn, 68, refuses to pay in bid for broadcasting powers to be devolved to Cardiff

A 68-year-old woman from west Wales is facing prison after telling a court she would not pay for her television licence as part of a campaign to try to force broadcasting powers to be devolved from London to Cardiff.

Eiris Llywelyn, from the village of Ffostrasol in Ceredigion, appeared in court in Aberystwyth, where she was ordered to pay costs of £220. But she immediately said she would still not pay either the licence fee or the costs, a move that could lead to her being imprisoned.

Llywelyn spent time on remand in the 1970s during the campaign that preceded the creation of the Welsh-language broadcaster S4C in 1982 and, asked by the Guardian if she was prepared to go to jail now, she said: “I am aware of the implications of breaking the law in the name of our language and culture.”

She is one of more than 80 people refusing to pay their licence fees in an effort to bring about the transfer of control over broadcasting from Westminster to Wales.

The non-payment campaign has been led by the language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, amid growing concern among many in Wales that the country is being ill-served by the media to the detriment of the Welsh language and the country’s democracy and culture.

Aled Powell of Cymdeithas yr Iaith said: “Eiris has taken a very brave stand for our young democracy in Wales; we’re very grateful to her. Decisions about broadcasting in Wales should be made by the people of Wales. We’ve had enough of MPs in London cutting the Welsh media, and presiding over a system which gives so little attention to Wales and doesn’t reflect our lives. The lack of Welsh content in the media is a threat to devolution, and it must be tackled.”

Speaking before the hearing, Llywelyn said: “We still only have one television channel, one full-time radio station and a few hours on a second station. The future of S4C itself is uncertain. Unless the language is visible, it will not survive.

“Whilst Westminster retains powers, broadcasting in Wales will stagnate even further. I believe devolving broadcasting powers is the first step to ensure a system that is fit for Wales in the 21st century.”

A poll has found that 65% of those who had an opinion on the issue believed that broadcasting should be devolved. Actors and pop stars are among those calling for the move.

Llywelyn, who worked in social housing before retiring, said:“I believe that devolving political powers is meaningless without devolving broadcasting powers and ensuring that people have control over the media. If the media is not answerable to the people, democracy is not possible, and we are not equipped to make informed decisions regarding political and social matters.

“Unless the media is democratised and decentralised, it is inevitable that demagogues will rise to power. Local communities and minorities such as Welsh people must see a reflection on their screens of their own cultural identity; otherwise the very core of what makes us civilised is eroded.”

Cymdeithas yr Iaith claims that devolving powers and setting up a Welsh equivalent of Ofcom would help normalise the Welsh language.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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