A Call To Arms 

1 January 2004 tbs.pm/1924

Dear Members of the Welsh Assembly,

Let me start by admitting something. Your assembly, though good for the self-esteem of the nation and heralding a new level of popular democracy for the UK, has limited powers.

You do not have the power of primary legislation. You do not have control over anything previously reserved by a cabinet minister in London. You may guide, but never direct the future of the principality.

With that out of the way, it’s time to admit something else – the Assembly needs to have a showdown with London, and it needs to do it sooner rather than later.

Which brings me to the ideal thing to have this showdown about. The ITV company that serves Wales (and the west of England) has not been Welsh-owned for quite some time. But it has managed to remain Welsh-managed with a clear Welsh identity in Wales.

This could now be under threat. In the last year, HTV has passed through three sets of owners – United, Granada and now Carlton.

And this is the thing you must fear. Carlton has a record of removing the identities of local stations and turning them into a shadow of its main London service. Whether this is right or wrong is something that media commentators will be discussing for years. But here’s the rub.

HTV Wales is not a local station. HTV Wales is the national English-language commercial broadcaster for an entire nation. No other commercial organisation pretends to be a Welsh station other than S4C. But S4C is in Welsh, and therefore unique.

HTV Wales is not unique, but it is important for the identity of Wales. Don’t imagine for a moment that the only important thing is the news of Wales at six o’clock. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only thing people would notice would be the disappearance of Welsh-interest programming.

No. The important thing beyond this is a simple one – HTV Wales must continue to exist as a separate brand because the alternative is a slap in the face to the emerging feeling of nationhood you have helped bring about. For HTV to become “Carlton” would mean a vitally important part of Welsh culture becoming English.

That is why you should start protesting now. Tell your constituents what could happen. Demand that the ITC – or better yet, the UK Government – prevents any moves to rob you of something that is yours. And you shouldn’t believe any company that says it plans to maintain the name and management of another company it has just picked up in a fire sale.

Once the change has happened, you can never go back again.

Yours faithfully

Russ J Graham

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