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Skidmore's Island: Wales Is A Limitedd Company

"Wales is a Limited Company run by a small group of families, however much the Welsh Government preens itself,'' writes Ian Skidmore.

Sinecures come in dynasties so it is no surprise to learn that Rhodri Talfan Davies has been appointed Controller BBC Wales, like his father and his grandfather before him. I worked for all three of them. I also worked for a cousin who ran the biggest publishers in the country.

Interviewing me was the first broadcasting job given to Rhodri’s father before his meteoric rise. Not an arduous job. The interview only lasted three minutes and the producer, clearly in no doubt which side of his bread sheltered the butter, insisted we have a rehearsal. When I said I had been speaking most of my life and had pretty well got the hang of it, he said, “It’s not for your benefit. If the interviewer doesn’t know what you are going to say he won’t know what to ask you next.”

Talfan had been getting work experience in Border TV where he was known as “ Gerry”. When he came to BBC Wales he was Geraint.

He brought a friend as his deputy who spent much of his time writing plays for the competition - ITV. So it was no surprise to learn that the new Talfan doesn’t even live in Wales.

Broadcasting chum Mike Flynn writes from Thailand:

“I wonder if you may have missed this milestone in Welsh media. Responding to ‘sniffy’ comments about a Talfan Davies dynasty, given that his father and grandfather both held top jobs at BBC Wales before him, Mr Davies said: “I don’t worry about it too much. Inevitably people may scratch their heads and say how is it that he can be appointed.......”

In fairness, the Talfan clan were a pleasure to work for. They didn’t interfere and spread their considerable charm where-e’er they walked, so does it matter that the BBC is a family business?

I hadn’t listened to the station for years but when I heard from Mike Flynn I tuned in. It was like listening to the Rosetta Stone. Its message hasn’t changed since grand-dad ran the shop. It is still largely a home for orphaned gramophone records. The presenters still have voices like cheap scent and the women aren’t much different either.

It’s a great puzzle. The Welsh are generally speaking the wittiest, funniest and sharpest of ‘this septic islanders’. They produce the best actors, the finest commentators and singers and the funniest writers. But even with two languages to go at, the nearest they have got to a decent programme in their broadcasting history was the wartime ”Welsh Rarebit” which cannot have taken a lot of thinking about.

The kindest thing to say about Radio Wales is that it isn’t as bad as Radio Cymru, the Welsh language barrel of laughs. Mind you, the Black Death wasn’t as bad as Radio Cymru. Its programmes, in a Welsh few of its listeners can understand, attract audiences so small it would be cheaper to send the actors round to act in their living rooms.

This is probably sour grapes because the times they are a-changing. Noel Whitcomb, the legendary Daily Mirror columnist was tested for writing ability the hard way. He was handed a clipping from the Lancet about a patient who was writing a letter in his bath with the ink bottle on the floor beside him. The soap slipped out of his hand and went scuttering along the floor. He stepped out of the bath to retrieve it, slipped on its trail and sat on the ink bottle which disappeared up the nearest orifice. Noel was told he would get a column if he could make that into a story usable in a family newspaper. My test for a column in the Sunday Pictorial was to sanitise a story about a customer who was castrated by a whore whose fees he disputed.

Johann Hari won a job as columnist on the Independent when he came down from university and wrote two features in the New Statesman. His subsequent work won him the Orwell Prize.

He has had to give it back after admitting embellishing quotations from other writer’s works, plagiarism and using a pseudonym to attack his critics.

A sackable offence? Not really. He has been suspended for four months without pay. He will only get his job back if he takes a course (at his own expense) in journalism, including ethics, IN THE UNITED STATES - which merits a hollow laugh. He has had to promise in the meantime not to blog or tweet for the Independent.

In return he will be allowed to go back to work for the paper and the report on his conduct will not be published, as would be the case with any other miscreant.

And they say getting jobs in the Media is


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