Celtic Times 

1 September 2001 tbs.pm/1735

In the UK, devolution has had an interesting effect on broadcasting. Additional bulletins, new services and zones, and extra programmes have resulted from the devolution of powers across the country. Outside the Celtic nations, London gained an assembly and the BBC had to separate London from the South East, creating a whole new region in the process. This may have to happen again, although this time it would be in a Celtic nation that isn’t currently regarded as a Nation.

There is a growing movement within Cornwall for the Duchy to have its own Assembly. Now, if the county were to get its own assembly, then it would have a far bigger effect on broadcasting in the Duchy than any other assembly or parliament has had before it in any area of the country.

A Cornish national assembly would instantly make the two local radio stations in the area, BBC Radio Cornwall and Pirate FM 102, national broadcasters. There’s also another consortium putting together a bid for a second licence in Cornwall, called CKFM Pure Gold Radio. If they successfully put together a bid for a second Cornwall licence, then they too would be national broadcasters.

The other major development is that the BBC and Carlton would either (a) have to sub-regionalise the South West to give Cornwall a completely separate news service, or (b) completely de-merge Cornwall from the South West, in effect, creating another region. In practice, we are more likely to see (a) than (b), but neither option is impossible to imagine. The BBC, because of its public service commitment, would probably have to go with option (b), because Cornwall is a Celtic Nation in traditional circles. Carlton is more likely to go with option A, creating a separate news service for Cornwall, instead of the current arrangement, of just two opt-outs of the main service a day.

Between them, these arrangements would also have another side effect. Currently, most producers of television in the South West, whether for local or national audiences, are based in Plymouth. A38 Films, Denham Productions, Free Range Television, Reel TV Company and Two Four Productions are all based in Plymouth close to where the broadcasters are. There are a lot of smaller scale production companies based all over the place, but all too often, it is the companies based in Plymouth that tend to get commissioned, rather than ones that are based elsewhere in the South West. I must say that it isn’t always the Plymouth based ones that get the commissions, especially for the local audience, but there is a greater tendency to use them because of Plymouth being a traditional home of broadcasting in the South West.

What would happen as a result of the creation of the Cornish Assembly, is it would suddenly give a new opportunity to production companies in Cornwall, and there are plenty of audio, film, TV and video production companies in the Duchy. These companies would suddenly get a new opportunity at pitching ideas for a local audience. Have other Celtic nations benefited in this way? The answer seems to vary. Some companies in Scotland may have benefited, although Gaelic programming does seem to have been somewhat sidelined to late night hours, much like French programmes on Channel seem to have been sidelined to Sunday lunchtimes. There is a channel on Digital Terrestrial in Scotland called TeleG, specifically created to show Gaelic language programming in Scotland, but it’s only on for an hour a day between 6pm and 7pm. S4C seems to have benefited the most from devolution, with another 12 hours a day of Welsh Language programming on Digital TV, and the BBC-produced S4C-2, which covers events at the Welsh Assembly. Northern Ireland seems to have benefited little broadcasting wise from Devolution so far.

It would seem that in all the areas where devolution has taken place, its up to the broadcasters in conjunction with the local production companies, to make something out of it. This has happened to varying degrees of success in the Celtic Nations so far. I hope that if Cornwall gets the Assembly, then it can make something broadcasting-wise out of it. It needs it to.

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