Pel Droed? Dim Diolch, Ffwcio Pel Droed.*

8 03 2012

*(Rough Translation; Football? No Thanks, my soul would be contaminated and I would be turned away from the gates of paradise)

On Monday night I suffered a reasonably sized shock. It happened at 10 PM, just after I changed channel.

I flicked over to S4C expecting to find “Sgorio” (Rough Translation: “Scoring“) but I was confronted by “Heno” (Rough translation – “A load of bollocks“). “Heno” is S4C’s answer to BBC one’s “The One Show” (Rough translation: “A load of shite“). I scrolled down the TV guide because I knew that planners are wont to play around with schedules.  Sgorio wasn’t on at half ten either (There was a repeat of the Welsh language soap opera “Pobl-Y-Cwm” (Rough Translation; “The People of the Valley“). I scrolled even further down but Sgorio wasn’t on at all. This was most odd, where was Sgorio? “Wait a minute!!” I thought, “Don’t two of the Sgorio presenters, Malcolm Allen and John Hartson, feature on the new TV advert for S4C? ” This couldn’t be happening.

Sgorio has been part of my Monday night routine over the last 20 years, it was the one programme that I relied upon for Monday night entertainment. I first noticed Sgorio after Italia ’90 when my love of Italian stadium architecture was still burning. The soothing words of the host, rugby international Arthur Emyr, and the excited phrases of the commentators, Emyr Davies and Nic Parry, took me on a mental journey around exotic Europe every Monday night; Cremona, Milan, Cesena, Genoa, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Burgos……  After a few years they began to cover the German league as well as the Spanish and Italian leagues.  It was great.

Sgorio allowed me to see some great players in action; Maradona, Vialli, Stoichkov, Laudrup, Gullit, Van Basten, Mancini, Schuster, Baggio. It allowed me to see some spectacular goals too; Carlo Ancelotti’s volley followed by a Tardelli scream,  Roberto Carlos bending shot from the touchline against Tenerife,  Michael Laudrup’s flying volley against Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s dribble through Compostela’s defence. I saw remarkable games too; Sampdoria winning Serie A, Real Madrid messing it up against Tenerife in two consecutive seasons and handing the Spanish title to other clubs, Deportivo losing the Spanish title in the last match of the season etc etc.

Everything was different, the weather, the kits, the skills, the grounds. It would have been fantastic to see the action by itself but it felt even better because the commentary was in Welsh. It felt as though the action somehow belonged to Wales; they didn’t have such action on other channels!!!! Then came Sky with their big brash stylings, then any old slack-jawed “footy fan” could worship at the altar of galactico hype. This was when the rot started.

Now Sgorio, this integral part of the Welsh sporting landscape, has been replaced by 2 repeats of programmes from the same evening, yes that’s two fucking repeats of fucking programmes that were shown THREE FUCKING HOURS EARLIER.  It didn’t matter how many times I scrolled the TV guide up and down Sgorio wasn’t there. I checked S4C’s schedule on Tuesday (because Sgorio is usually repeated on Tuesdays) and the schedulers had done the same thing again. Then I scrolled down and saw the word Sgorio!! Hallelujah, Sgorio was on!!! Then I noticed they had cut the programme from an hour to 35 minutes.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised by any of this because about a month and a half ago I’d heard a rumour that it was going to happen. When nothing had happened in the couple of weeks after I heard the rumour I thought that was it just another rumour, then Monday happened. As I conclusively proved above this is another thing we can lay at Murdoch’s door.

Now I don’t mind Pobl-Y-Cwm,  in fact I may go as far as saying that I slightly like the programme as it’s the most realistic soap on British TV,  and I even respect the idea that Heno serves a purpose on publicly funded television but I wonder whether we need to see these two programmes twice a night? Lest we forget the omnibus edition of Pobl-Y-Cwm on Sundays as well. I struggle to see S4C’s obvious need to jettison half their Monday to Friday football programming. Finding space for two repeats from 3 hours earlier doesn’t seem to be an adequate reason.

You could conclude that S4C’s decision has something to do with the austerity-as-the-excuse-for-everything approach of our beloved government. If you consider two facts it’s an easy conclusion to make; firstly, S4C is a publicly funded broadcaster and secondly, buying the broadcast rights to sporting events is expensive, especially when the cost of rights are rising exponentially. Publicly funded broadcasters have to cater for all tastes with a finite amount of resources so they will be squeezed out of the bidding for events. If you ran the station you may conclude that there’s more to life than sport, you may choose to let sport programmes go.

Well, you could argue that but  if we check the schedules I have a feeling that S4C won’t be as willing to cut the amount of rugby programmes they broadcast. Let’s look at S4C’s schedules for just over a week (From last Saturday (3RD Mar) until next Sunday (11th Mar)) to see if I’m right, let’s make a comparison of S4Cs football and rugby output;

Football – Two matches (Bangor City v Neath & Bangor City v XXX XXX XXXXXX) plus one edition of Sgorio.

Rugby – Three matches (Dragons v Munster, Wales v Italy & Northampton v Scarlets) plus two editions of rugby “comedy” programme Jonathan.

You can already see an imbalance. This imbalance becomes more pronounced when you bare in mind that S4C likes to show repeats. By the end of the week S4C will have shown two full repeats of Dragons v Munster and one full repeat of Northampton v Scarlets. When I say full repeats I mean unedited coverage of the matches; the same minute-by-minute action, the same build-up, the same analysis and interviews. They will have also repeated one episode of the execrable comedy programme Jonathan. By the end of the week they will have repeated Sgorio once. Why S4C feels the need to repeat rugby matches twice in full minute-by-minute detail is beyond me, especially when both matches are virtually meaningless in the context of whole seasons.

The imbalance is further underlined when you add the numbers together you will see that this week S4C will have broadcast over 19 hours of rugby coverage and 6 hours and 45 minutes of football coverage. This week is typical.  Why is there such an imbalance?

It’s obvious that S4C are pandering to the fallacy that rugby is the most popular sport in Wales, despite the fact that it’s clearly not. S4C could justify their decision by holding up the infamous example of Sgorio having zero viewers once but this example was an anomaly and the methodology of gathering TV ratings information is rather dubious so it would be a flimsy justification. I can’t see any reasonable justification for their decision, basically football is being marginalised within Welsh media, and by extension within Welsh society, yet again.

It becomes quite nasty and dangerous if you consider the wider context of S4Cs decision. The decision points to the idea that some well-paid people sit in well-ventilated offices and make decisions about what constitutes the acceptable face of modern Welsh culture, and by definition, what is worthless and expendable about Welsh culture. To put it another way; they are deciding what is worthy and what is unworthy. If we think of 20th century history concepts such as “worthy” and “unworthy” have a chilling resonance.

It may be my paranoia but I can’t help thinking that some people are trying to force me to accept an image of Wales that I’m not too comfortable with. Mind you national cultures have always been manufactured like this.



One response

11 03 2012
Welsh not British (@welshnotbritish)

This really doesn’t make any sense. Most people have devices to record TV, all S4C content is available on their website anyway. So repeats aren’t neccesary. They are just a quick and easy way to save money.

But apart from that, Sgorio is watched by non Welsh speakers so it is a great vehicle to draw those in and for learners as well.

You may have heard that the Welsh Government is investigating the FAW and the Premier League after a petition was raised calling for such action.

Part of the investigation is as follows…

“the WPL’s standing within the Welsh sporting landscape and its visibility in Welsh media outlets;”

If anyone wants to voice their opinions then they can email them at the following address.

(Oh and ignore the nonsense about political interfering, it’s just scare mongering).

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