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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 17:20 GMT
Minister urges Welsh to 'lighten up'
Kim Howells MP
Kim Howells says Welsh television is too serious
Broadcasting Minister Kim Howells has criticised TV producers in Wales for taking themselves too seriously, claiming it led to a lack of success at network level.

The MP for Pontypridd, south Wales, said that Scottish programme makers had achieved more because they were willing to treat their nation and its people in a light-hearted way.

Richard Briers in Monarch of the Glen
Monarch of the Glen: starring Richard Briers
"The Scots don't mind laughing at themselves on TV whereas in Wales we're obsessed with proving we've got an identity that the world doesn't understand," he said.

In an interview for the Royal Television Society's magazine Television, Dr Howells named the BBC Scotland drama series Monarch of the Glen as one of his favourites.

He said he hoped everyone else in Wales was watching it too.

"Monarch of the Glen is well done, it has a nice pace to it and it's now got a series of established characters, and it looks beautiful."

The Scots don't mind laughing at themselves on TV

Dr Kim Howells MP
A BBC Wales spokesman responded by suggesting that the minister had been "a prisoner of Westminster for far too long".

And, as a result, he had missed some of its best new satirical comedy programmes such Lucky Bag - largely based on typical Welsh characters - to be shown across the UK next year.

"He needs to break out and see some of the excellent TV drama and humour series we're putting out through BBC Wales," the spokesman added.

"If he gets home a little earlier on a Friday night he'll be very pleasantly surprised, we're certain."

Despite the relative failure of network series such as Tiger Bay and Border Cafe, BBC Wales has enjoyed greater success with single dramas.

Rob Brydon
Rob Brydon: voted Best Comedy Actor 2001

Welsh comedian Rob Brydon, named Best Comedy Actor in last night's British Comedy Awards, admitted his countrymen could take themselves too seriously.

"I know a lot of Welsh people who can laugh at themselves - I equally know a lot who can't.

"I think it's low self-esteem from Kim and if anything it's a cry for help," he added.

"I've always found Kim to be very funny - he does a great Ronnie Corbett."


Dr Howells' observations on television are the latest in a series of controversial comments by the straight-talking minister, a former research officer for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In October this year, he attacked the arts establishment in Wales as elitist. The following month he warned that the Welsh film industry against a "ghetto mentality".

And earlier this month, he dismissed folk music as his "idea of hell".

In April Downing Street distanced itself from Dr Howells's comments that the Royal Family were "all a bit bonkers".

Comedian Rob Brydon
"I've always found Kim to be very funny"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | Music
Folk fans furious at minister
08 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Minister says royals are 'bonkers'
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