Police Boss Blasts Patronising Response of Newsnight Editor

A police boss has blasted the “patronising and superior” response of Newsnight editor Ian Katz in a row over a TV debate about the Welsh language.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones wrote in Welsh to Mr Katz to complain about the “ill-informed” item on August 9 which prompted a storm of protest across Wales.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg say that Mr Katz should be sacked.

The programme asked whether the Welsh language was a “help or hindrance to the nation”.

The discussion did not have anybody who could speak the language involved, with contributions from author Julian Ruck and Ruth Dawson, Wales Editor for the independent news and analysis website The Conversation.

At the start of the programme presenter Evan Davis asked of the language: “Is it the government’s job to promote it and is it a help or a hindrance to the nation.”

He later went on to say: “We will see how people will choose to speak it and how many will have it as a hobby, and how many speak it as their main language.”

In his response to Mr Jones, which was written in English, Mr Katz accepted the programme’s guest casting was not good enough, adding the wording of the introduction to the discussion “was cruder than it should have been”.

He said he would “strongly argue that the question of whether the public promotion of the Welsh language is effective and beneficial to Wales is a perfectly legitimate subject of debate”.

The reaction to the item, said Mr Katz, had “whiff” of “unwillingness” to tackle questions over promotion of the Welsh language

“We should have approached it with more subtlety, I agree, but there is a whiff in some of the response to our item of an unwillingness to even countenance such an impertinent question,” he added.

Mr Katz also said it was a “fair” point the debate should have included a fluent Welsh speaker, adding the Welsh Language Commissioner and Cymdeithas were invited on “but they were sadly unable or unwilling to participate”.

According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, it was untrue and they had told a researcher the group could appear live and had offered to go to a studio.

Mr Jones said: “I feel Ian Katz’s response is extremely patronising and superior in its attitude.

“I wrote to him in Welsh to make the point that this is a living language that is in use every day and has equal status to English and he couldn’t even be bothered to have his reply translated.

“He had my original letter translated so why couldn’t he do the same with his reply?

“I posted his reply on Twitter and I have had a huge response with literally dozens of replies accusing the BBC of patronising the Welsh language.

“I have a thick skin about these things but other people clearly find his attitude upsetting and offensive.

“I don’t think Ian Katz gets what the problem is. The programme set out to question how much money is spent on promoting the Welsh language but no-one considers how much is spent on promoting English.

“It is typical of the patronising attitude of many people in the upper levels of the BBC towards languages like Welsh and Gaelic.”

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