BOB GARFIELD: The French have their Academie Francaise chartered to keep their language and culture from being bastardized by outside - read American - influence. And now on the other side of the channel some englishmen are plotting approximately the same thing. An organization called The Campaign for Press and Broadcast Freedom is proposing that Parliament protect British English from the vulgar Americanized version, a gambit that has attracted the attention of a previously indifferent British press to the larger issue of foreign ownership of British television stations. Joining us now is Granville Williams, spokesman for the media watchdog organization. Mr. Williams, welcome to On the Media.
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Thank you. Welcome.
BOB GARFIELD: Give me some examples, please, of some British usage that has been defiled by, you know, Yankee impurities.
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Your emergency number in the States -- you phone 9 1 1 -- your emergency phone number. In England it's 9 9 9 -- and if children in the junior schools and primary schools in England -- if you ask them what the emergency number is, some of them will say 9 1 1. So that's one example, but there are lots of other words which are becoming more current in the UK. I mean take for example the world movies. You go to the movies. We go to see a film. But that word is becoming more prevalent. Barman and bartender. Chips and fries. Different examples of the way that words are used, and I'm not suggesting that these are going to bring the end of civilization as we know it, but what we're trying to do in the campaign is make a point.
BOB GARFIELD:We're discussing here in the end cultural imperialism which is insidious partly because the, the victims of cultural imperialism usually welcome the invading forces with open arms. Can you really legislate against that?
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Cultural imperialism might be a, a red herring in this debate. It's really about how you seek to protect your structures of ownership in the media and in television to reflect what we do think is important in England, which is that it should reflect back on the identity, the views, the accents, the experiences and the language -- that's part of it -- which people use in their everyday life. And I'm afraid a lot of Americanisms are not the natural language that people use in their everyday life.
BOB GARFIELD:Aren't there remedies far less draconian than legislating the content of television programs, especially when the organization is called The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom -- there's a little irony in that, isn't there?
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Well, I - there - yeah, again this is a good example of how words take on different meaning. But in some cases, and this is a particular one, we felt we needed to stimulate a discussion about what's actually happening in the ownership proposals and the proposals on regulations, the communications bill.
BOB GARFIELD:But the, the enemy here is not Americanisms; the enemy here isn't elevator instead of lift or truck instead of lorry. Isn't there some danger of misdirection here?
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Yep. I, I think you've hit on a, a point that did worry me when we decided to put this story to the media. One of the members of the campaign works in public relations, and we had a discussion amongst the members to say look, we've got to get some media attention; this communication bill isn't getting any headlines in the media. And this colleague, this member in the campaign, said well look you know there's, there's always certain things you can use to try and generate interest, but you're absolutely right -- the key issue that concerns us in the campaign is the content of the communications bill, and what we've tried to do is to try and interest and attract attention in the media.
BOB GARFIELD: So this little gimmick worked!
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: I think it's worked!
BOB GARFIELD: Well I wish you best of luck in, in your real effort. Thank you very much for joining us.
GRANVILLE WILLIAMS: Okay. Pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: Granville Williams is the spokesman for The Campaign for Press and Broadcast Freedom.