France guilty of 'cultural genocide': TV exec

2nd September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 1 (AFP) - Patrick Le Lay, head of the top-ranking French television station TF1, accused France of "cultural genocide" Thursday for its suppression of Breton -- the Celtic language of the people of Brittany.

PARIS, Sept 1 (AFP) - Patrick Le Lay, head of the top-ranking French television station TF1, accused France of "cultural genocide" Thursday for its suppression of Breton -- the Celtic language of the people of Brittany.

In an interview in a new monthly magazine 'Bretons', Le Lay -- who was born in the Brittany town of Saint-Brieuc -- launched a bitter tirade against the country's Paris-based elite, for whom "Breton culture has no right to exist."

"I am not French. I am Breton. I am a foreigner when I am in France," said Le Lay, 63, who has headed the privately-owned channel since 1988.

Breton is spoken by some 300,000 out of the 3.75 million people who live in Brittany -- half the number that spoke it 20 years ago. At the start of the last century, some 1.2 million spoke the language -- and half of these had no knowledge of French. Teaching of Breton was banned from 1902 to 1951.

"If in a family you no longer speak the language of your grandparents, it is because people came along and stopped you .... There is no greater crime against humanity -- apart from killing people -- than killing their language. France carried out a cultural genocide of the Breton language," Le Lay said.

Le Lay said he faced constant obstruction from Paris when he helped set up the private Brittany-based television channel TV Breizh in 2000, and was forced to give up plans to dub American programmes into Breton because of the "hue and cry".

"Do you understand the reasoning of these people? It is perfectly alright for (state-owned) France Televisions to translate into French all the American series. They are dubbed into French -- the national language -- and no-one is shocked. But into Breton -- everyone is outraged!," Le Lay said.

Le Lay confirmed that he supports an association that helps prisoners held for activities in the Brittany independence movement, and understood why young men and women should get involved.

"We are a country whose culture has been oppressed. When you have obstruction, you get anarchy," he said. "The French administration has not changed since Colbert (Louis XIV's chief minister). The revolution was a brief phenomenon that put an end to the old order. But the administration did not change .... Paris does not like to change. It is as simple as that."

The outspoken television executive caused furore a year ago when he said that the main aim of private television channels was to get businesses to advertise.

"There are many ways of talking about television. But from a business perspective let us be realists. Essentially the job of TF1 is to help Coca-Cola, for example, to sell its product," Le Lay said in the interview. "What we sell Coca-Cola is available human brain time."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Breton, Patrick Le Lay, cultural genocide

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