Complaint to BBC Cornwall - bilingual road signage

Thursday, March 01 2007 @ 10:35 PM GMT

Contributed by: Admin

Complaint letter to BBC Cornwall about bilingual road signage on the Laurence Reed Show on Monday 26th February 2007

Mr Ed Goodridge
Acting Assistant Editor
BBC Cornwall

Dear Mr Goodridge

I am writing to you to complain about the Laurence Reed Show on Monday 26th
February 2007 in which much air time was devoted to the matter of bilingual
road signage currently being erected by the Kerrier District Council
throughout its area of responsibility. At no time on this programme was it
mentioned that this policy has no cost implication for the rate-payer of
this district and the distinct impression was created that this council's
admirable effort in this regard was merely a waste of rate-payer's money.

No mention either was made that Cornish is one of the official languages of
the United Kingdom, having been recognised by the UK government on 5
November 2002, under the Council of Europe's European Charter for the
Protection of Regional or Minority Languages.

Under this Charter, authorities, including the BBC, have a responsibility to
take measures to protect and promote the Cornish language, not disparage it.
Since the Charter is a legally binding agreement, public bodies can
normally only fulfil their obligations to the Council of Europe by taking
'resolute action' of the sort that usually requires the provision of
adequate financial support. The approach taken by Kerrier District Council,
at no cost whatsoever to the local tax-payer, is consequently highly
commendable and I was most concerned and disappointed that your programme
failed to make this clear.

I hope you will be able to confirm to me that the portfolio-holder with
responsibility for road signage at Kerrier District Council will be given
the opportunity in the very near future to provide the balance that was so
blatantly and shamefully missing from this programme.

Of additional concern to me is the fact that Laurence Reed read out an
e-mail purportedly from 'Nikki from Scorrier', who wrote, "The Cornish
language only makes the Cornish sound thicker than they actually are" , is a
shocking statement that appears to conflict with the BBC's own policy on
diversity which states:

"Diversity is a creative opportunity for the BBC to reflect the totality of
the UK audience.
As a public service broadcaster the BBC is committed to reflecting the
diversity of the UK audience in its workforce, as well as in its output on
TV, on radio and online.
The aim is to be inclusive of the differences that make up the reality of
modern Britain, including gender, age, ethnicity and cultural diversity,
people with disabilities, different faiths and social backgrounds, and
different sexual orientations.
The BBC has set targets for ensuring that diversity happens on and off air,
supported by a number of initiatives aimed at promoting diversity in the
workforce and in output and content."

Bearing this in mind, I would be most grateful if you would address the
following points:

1) Do you consider that publicly broadcasting the remarks of 'Nikki from
Scorrier" to be acceptable in a diverse, inclusive society?

I have no doubt at all that, had such comment been addressed to those who
have a different skin colour to that of the English majority or the Cornish
minority, the BBC would be facing allegations that it had breached not only
Statutory Instrument 1626 to the Race Relations Act 1976, that incorporates
European Union Directive 2000/43/EC into domestic law, but also the Public
Order Act.

If your answer to this question is 'No',

a) What do you propose to do in order to right the wrong?

If your answer to 1) is 'Yes',

b) Please explain how broadcasting the statement of Nikki from Scorrier is
consistent with the BBC's policy on diversity?

2) Please explain how the uninformed remarks broadcast on the Laurence Reed
Show, regarding official usage of the threatened minority Cornish language,
a recognised central feature of Cornish culture, are consistent with the
BBC's diversity policy, bearing in mind also that highly important,
international treaty, contextual background information was NOT included in
the programme making the programme factually imbalanced?

3) Is it normal BBC policy to devote valuable air-time to promoting the
aspirations of bigots?

If not, why were the circumstances outlined above allowed to arise and why
did neither Laurence Reed nor any of his team do anything to discourage or
prevent the broadcasting of remarks that are so deeply offensive to many
Cornish people?

4) Please provide statistical information regarding the ethnic composition
of the BBC workforce in Truro. Please provide overall general information
and specific information relating to senior management grades.

Bearing in mind the BBC's public commitment to ethic and cultural diversity,
and bearing in mind that Radio Cornwall is based in Cornwall, where, in the
last decennial census, roughly 37,000 people asserted a Cornish ethnicity, I
would be most grateful for the details relating to employees who associate
themselves with a Cornish ethnic/cultural background, and who work in Truro,
that you will have readily to hand.

I look forward to hearing from you very shortly.

Yours sincerely

Dr Nigel Hicks
The Federal Union of European Nationalities and former member of the INGO
Liaison Committee, the Council of Europe.)

Copies to:

The BBC Director General, Mr Mark Thompson
The Council of Europe
Cornish Members of Parliament
Kerrier District Council Members and Officers