Welsh speakers have expressed alarm that a decision by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, could leave a predominantly Welsh-speaking area without Welsh-medium radio.
There have been calls for radio stations to focus more on serving the needs of local communities rather than only making profit.
Radio Ceredigion could in future broadcast in English only after Ofcom decided to put out its tender for licenses without any conditions to broadcast through the medium of Welsh. Ceredigion, in west Wales, is an area in which over half the population speaks Welsh.
The decision follows a strong local campaign in July to successfully oppose a request by Radio Ceredigion owners, Town and Country Broadcasting, to reduce its current Welsh medium output on the station.
Bethan Williams, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) said, “Since Town and Country Broadcasting took over Radio Ceredigion, the Welsh language has become more and more marginal, and the service less representative of the community with more emphasis on making profit”.
In March 2010 the Welsh language Board requested that the devolved Labour government in Wales prevent Ofcom from providing broadcasting licenses without any conditions involving Welsh medium provision. There has not yet been a decision from the government.
Campaigners have urged the Welsh minister responsible for language matters, Leighton Andrews, to make a decision straight away and prevent the issuing of licences without Welsh language conditions.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg said that the situation for Welsh medium radio was “deteriorating substantially”.
“The Welsh government can tighten the rules and language policies of Ofcom to ensure that there are no further cutbacks,” said Bethan Williams, “That needs to be done straight away.”
She said that Andrews should compel Ofcom to take into consideration the linguistic nature of an area when awarding local radio licenses.
Williams added, “This experience strengthens the case for devolving responsibility over broadcasting to Wales”.