Broadcasting challenges over Welsh language 'shift'

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Media captionRhodri Talfan Davies says the Welsh language is in the 'midst of a fundamental shift'

People's use of Welsh should be better reflected on English language programmes made by BBC Wales, says its director.

Rhodri Talfan Davies says the fall in the number of people speaking Welsh has also led to challenges in broadcasting.

His comments were made in a speech at the Celtic Media Festival in Swansea.

Meanwhile, radio listeners across Wales have been invited to take part in a nationwide "conversation" about BBC Radio Cymru.

Mr Davies said Wales would be seeking the views of both organisations and individual Welsh language listeners, including those who don't currently listen to the station.

He said the research would ensure the station remained "successful and vibrant" in the future.

During his speech at the festival he referred to the 2011 Census results released in December.

They showed the number of Welsh speakers overall has fallen from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000 in 2011, representing a two percentage point drop - from 21% to 19% - in the proportion of Welsh speakers.

'More diverse'

Mr Davies said it suggested the "language is in the midst of a fundamental shift" and, therefore, broadcasters like BBC Wales which produces English and Welsh language content across TV, radio and online faced challenges to appeal to a broad audience.

He said it was once a language learned at home by those using it all the time whereas now it more often taught in the classroom.

"The so-called homogenous Welsh language audience is becoming more diverse than ever before," he said.

"At a functional level, their ability to use the language level varies more than ever before.

"And at a more emotional level their confidence in using the language is also becoming more varied.

"But perhaps most profound of all, the cultural and social reference points of Welsh speakers - both those fluent and those less so - are more varied than ever before.

"For an increasing number of Welsh speakers, Welsh language culture is only one part of a patchwork of influences that straddle, Welsh, British and international cultures."

In his speech, Mr Davies said he wanted BBC One Wales "to think creatively about how we allow Welsh language voices and experiences to be heard and experienced a little more."

In an interview afterwards, Mr Davies said: "Is it right that we scarcely hear Welsh spoken on BBC One Wales?"

"To be very clear what we are not talking about here in any sense is introducing Welsh language programmes onto BBC One.

"The question I'm asking and posing is that Welsh is spoken in Wales, it is part of our culture, it's part of the fabric of society.

"So from time to time, where it's appropriate, should perhaps an interviewee be allowed to contribute in Welsh?"

Mr Davies said Welsh language station BBC Radio Cymru has been looking at how to address changes in the use of the language - but added that it would not become a bilingual service.

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Media captionBBC Cymru Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies talks to BBC Wales media correspondent Huw Thomas

"If Radio Cymru is to thrive it must reach out to serve the broadest possible Welsh language audience - including those less confident with the language - to fully embrace their lives and passions," he said.

"To be crystal clear, we don't think the answer is for Radio Cymru to mutate into a bilingual station.

"But we do need to work harder to reach those who are less confident in the language or are still learning it."

He highlighted the new relationship between BBC Wales and Welsh channel S4C, describing it as "strong new partnership ...that may have surprised some".

As a result of that he said TV detective series Hinterland - currently being filmed in Aberystwyth - was being made in Welsh and English to be screened on both S4C and BBC.

"And when the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World launches in June, both S4C and BBC will jointly celebrate this major cultural event," Mr Davies told delegates.

The festival celebrates film, radio and digital media from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man.

Among other speakers at the festival is Ron Jones, founder of independent television company Tinopolis which is making Hinterland.

The three-day celebration promotes the languages and cultures of the Celtic nations and regions.

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