A COMPLAINT about a TV advert accused of mocking the Welsh was last night itself attacked for suffering from a “sense of humour bypass”.
Politicians also claimed the complaint about the light-hearted Barclaycard advert, which was rejected by the Advertising Standards Authority, could lead to genuine grievances not being taken seriously in future.
In the advert, comedy series Green Wing actors Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt discover a rich uncle named Tony is in fact an internet fraudster operating under the name Hans Schmidt. It leads Mangan to declare, “He’s Welsh.”
The complainant, who has not been named, is understood to have written both to Barclaycard and the ASA about what they believed was derogatory to the Welsh.
Their stance was backed in a weekly newsletter by Welsh language pressure group Cymuned, who labelled the advert a “tasteless advertisement that poked fun at the Welsh (again)”.
Cymuned added, “It is important that we send emails like this so that we can raise awareness among these big companies that we are not willing to sit back and be the butt of their jokes.
“We hope to hear Barclaycard’s response soon. In the meantime, if you have written to complain about an advert/service/programme which insults the Welsh or pokes fun at the language (hey, we need to keep a sense of humour, but we do seem to be the only minority that it’s OK to insult) write to us with the story.”
Last night Cymuned’s chief executive Aran Jones said the newsletter was not a press release and not an issue on which Cymuned would be campaigning. But he said the newsletter fulfilled an important function in putting people in touch with each other and issues they may want to discuss.
Lib Dem AM Peter Black said, “If we complain at every single instance we will come across as having no sense of humour. I think there may have been a sense of humour bypass here.”
The comment comes against a backdrop of a number of high-profile comments about the Welsh in recent years to have hit the headlines, most notably writer AA Gill’s description of the race as “loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls”.
In 2001, TV presenter Anne Robinson asked “What are they [the Welsh] for?” on The Weakest Link. And in 2006, Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher described Welsh people as a “nightmare”.
But with Wales currently enjoying a high profile in sporting and musical terms, Plaid AM Helen Mary Jones said the Barclaycard advert was simply not worthy of a complaint.
“There have been occasions in the past where the ways in which the Welsh are portrayed have been offensive and it has been right to complain,” she said.
“But I’ve always taken that particular advert as mocking the person who makes the statement, rather than the Welsh.
“I’m not sure I can see in this case why the statement is derogatory unless I’m missing some- thing. When there really are derogatory portrayals people should raise queries and should complain but we need to be careful not to be seen to be too touchy.
“If you over-react, when you actually have something serious to say it undermines it – it’s a case of ‘the boy who cried wolf’.”
Matt Wilson, spokesman for the ASA said, “We had one complaint about the advert but we’ve closed it and informed the complainant there are no grounds for complaint.
“The complainant believed the advert was derogatory and racist towards Welsh people. We didn’t think the advert would cause the insult they claimed.
“We did not feel it was poking fun at the Welsh but rather the character. Hans Schmidt is obviously a German name.”
A Barclaycard spokesman said, “Stephen Mangan plays a buffoon who repeatedly finds himself in awkward situations because of his lack of judgment. The line in question, where Stephen mistakes a German name for a Welsh name, is meant as a further, clear illustration of his clownish character and nothing more.
“It is our aim to entertain customers and never our intention to offend any group including the Welsh population.”