Best of the Blogs #13: The Dragon has Two Tongues

(Title Image: Institute of Welsh Affairs)

I’m going to do something unusual and dedicate this final “Best of the Blogs” of 2017 to one site.

Wales in the Movies (Youtube, Twitter) planned to upload the entirety of the seminal 13-part 1985 ITV/Channel 4 Welsh history series The Dragon has Two Tongues, presented by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas and Prof. Gwyn Alf Williams.

Although Huw Edwards’ 2012 series The Story of Wales came close and stands apart in its own right, I doubt think there has ever been and ever will be a more comprehensive television documentary on our own history as The Dragon Has Two Tongues.

If you want to whet your appetite, scanned versions of the support packs tied to the series (titled Age of the Princes, Age of the Gentry, Age of the People, Welsh Womens’ History) are still available online – though they’re about 90MB each.

Wales in the Movies owner, Nick Stradling, announced plans on Nation.Cymru to release an episode every Thursday until February 2018 and start a discussion after each episode.

The first episode was uploaded to Youtube last week, but ITV issued a (polite, non-threatening) copyright notice and demanded £142,000 (around £360 a minute) for a 5-year licence to stream the show.

Considering this show has been lying in their archives for 32 years, both the presenters are dead and it’s never been re-broadcast, their demand is laughable not necessarily for the copyright issue (I was worried something like that would happen), but for the strict terms and high price set for a piece of work that’s commercially worthless but culturally priceless.

Clearly, there’s demand to see this judging by the response, though that demand isn’t commercially viable and ITV won’t lose anything by releasing it to the public domain – though ideally it should be broadcast within legal means with the consent of the copyright holders.

The sensible solution would be for either ITV (or Channel 4) to put the show up on their own website(s) as educational programming or negotiate for a third party to do so – though presumably there are copyright issues preventing them from having already done so; trying to find archive Welsh film & TV is often difficult to say the least.

In a recent development, the ITV Press Team have told Nick they’re considering opening talks with the National Library of Wales to broadcast the series via the library’s Youtube channel as part of a The Dragon Has Two Tongues season in 2018 – which sounds like an excellent compromise but still requires some work.

It would be an absolute travesty if we (I say “we” but many of the people reading this won’t be around) have to wait for the copyright to expire in 2055 to see (outside of a library) a vital documentation of our own history by two of Wales’ most distinguished historians and broadcasters.

As Nick has asked, let’s all keep an eye on this.

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