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Could George Bush follow Shane as the new 'Cymru cowboyo'?

Byline: By Rhodri Clark Western Mail

Us president George W Bush speaking Welsh on the evening news? It's enough to make any viewer in Wales do a double take because news bulletins, documentaries and other programmes on the Welsh channel routinely include clips of people speaking English. The assumption is that all S4C viewers understand English as well as Welsh. But now campaign group Cylch yr Iaith says S4C should eradicate English by dubbing "Dubya" and other prominent English-speaking figures into Welsh.

However, such a policy would take S4C in the opposite direction to that advocated by Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas, who said this week the channel should broadcast more English-language programmes about Wales to improve its viewing figures.

Cylch yr Iaith has spent years campaigning against what it regards as the creeping anglicisation of S4C and BBC Radio Cymru. It says English speakers have plenty of choice of television programmes without S4C diluting its Welsh-language provision to attract them.

As S4C celebrates its 25th anniversary, Cylch yr Iaith wants the channel to rid its Welsh-language programmes of English.

Secretary Ieuan Wyn said the Welsh-speaking community needed opportunities to be more involved in S4C, with social and cultural groups represented on a permanent advisory panel giving the S4C Authority feedback and helping make policies.

He said, "Amongst the issues would be changing the present guidelines of using English-language items, such as interviews in news bulletins and current affairs programmes, and using dubbing instead."

Western Mail film reviewer Gary Slaymaker, who also presents a film programme on S4C, said the channel had previously dubbed clips of sports stars in programmes on soccer and rallying.

"They were speaking in their native language, Finnish or Italian. But if you know someone is speaking English and it's dubbed into Welsh, it sounds odd. You wouldn't get Gordon Brown's Scottish brogue if he was voiced by someone from Bangor."

But he raised the issue that some children might grow up thinking Gordon Brown was a fluent Welsh speaker. "It would be a big shock if they met the PM and started speaking Welsh with him."

In Germany most films and TV programmes are dubbed into German but news bulletins are treated differently, according to Daniel Meyer-Dinkgrafe, a German academic who lectured on film and drama at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from 1994 until last month.

He said, "In the news bulletins the original sound starts off and then goes low so that you can still hear it in the background. A newsreader's kind of voice is then saying the text in German. It's not an actor's voice."

He said it would look and sound strange if someone like George Bush appeared to be speaking in German on the news.

If Welsh dubbing on news bulletins proved popular, could S4C air Hollywood blockbusters in Welsh?

"It's been tried before," said Mr Slaymaker. "In the 1970s HTV took some of the classics of film and dubbed them in Welsh.

"They did the 1950s western Shane, with Huw Ceredig voicing the part played by Jack Palance. One of the Welsh actors, Robin Gruffydd, voicing Shane, had a slightly effeminate voice. "They also did Rhaid Dinistrio Frankenstein, originally Frankenstein Must be Destroyed. "Everyone thought these films were hilarious.": Dubbing confusion:In Germany today dubbing provides well-paid careers for actors whose voices are famous while their faces remain unknown to the public.

Actors at the professions peak can pick up lucrative advertising contracts for voiceovers. The downside is confusion when an actors familiar voice suddenly changes, because their Synchronsprecher the person doing the voiceover has retired, died or been allocated a different actor in the same film. Germans had to get used to a new voice for Sean Connery, after the death in 1997 of Gert Gunther Hoffmann who had been Sean Connerys Synchronsprecher for decades.

Daniel Meyer-Dinkgrafe, professor of drama at the University of Lincoln, said Hoffman was unusual among dubbers in having acted on German TV, in an early-evening crime series. He said another dubber, Michael Chevalier had played just a handful of parts in a 50-year career in which he was famed as the voice of Charles Bronson, Omar Sharif and Richard Harris.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 31, 2007
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