Activism and Online Documentary: The life and death of Sianel 62

Allbwn ymchwil: Pennod mewn Llyfr/Adroddiad/Trafodion CynhadleddPennod


In early February 2012, non-violent, direct action group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg launched Sianel 62, an online television channel broadcasting original and repurposed Welsh language content ‘as live’ every Sunday evening. Established amidst unprecedented government cuts to national broadcaster S4C, and at a time when accessible online broadcasting technology was still in its infancy, Sianel 62 was the first significant, coordinated platform for original Welsh-language audio-visual content since the launch of S4C itself in 1982. Although it was never a stated aim, the resource limitations of the channel, which consisted primarily of inexperienced and amateur volunteers, led to a preponderance of comparatively low cost documentary and other broadly-defined nonfiction content. Using interviews with key members of the Sianel 62 team, the proposed chapter will begin by reflecting on the channel’s explicit and implicit objectives within the political, historical and cultural context of Welsh language broadcasting. Why was it felt that such a platform was necessary? And to what extent was Sianel 62 more than simply a protest against a lack of quality Welsh language programming about contemporary Wales?

Drawing on the work of Lievrouw, the chapter will then locate Sianel 62 within a multidimensional politics of resistance by evaluating the innovative production processes and complex ecologies of specific nonfiction outputs, such as the crowd-sourced feature documentary Hanner Cant (Fifty Years). Filmed by over 30 people with low-cost cameras, the production transformed the traditional documentary audience into the producers of their own content. In this respect, the chapter will consider whether, despite being an activist platform, the channel in fact contributed to notions of identity, citizenship, the public sphere and the democratisation of documentary filmmaking more generally, particularly in an environment where S4C, as the solitary Welsh language broadcaster, could only partially fulfil its public service remit.

By 2014, Sianel 62 had succumbed to a slow and quiet death; but, while the financial stability and editorial independence of S4C remains uncertain, the need for alternative Welsh language content and platforms has never been greater. The chapter will conclude with an evaluation of current Welsh language nonfiction output online and assess the extent to which Sianel 62, specifically because it was an activist platform, was the forerunner of innovative online content in Welsh.
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