S4C must be fit for a digital future, Assembly Committee says
The UK Government’s relationship with S4C has been one of benign neglect for too long, and the review proposed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport must ensure that it can thrive in an increasingly competitive environment for public service broadcasters, a National Assembly Committee has said.
The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee ran an inquiry into the future of S4C to ensure views from Wales form part of the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s planned review into the broadcaster.
Their report says the UK Government review must recognise the scale of the cuts that S4C has faced since 2011 with future funding based on a clear definition of what the broadcaster is expected to deliver, at a level that ensures it can match these requirements.
The Committee also believes S4C’s position as an independent organisation and broadcaster needs to be protected. However, its regulatory and management structure needs to change. Ofcom should become fully responsible for regulating S4C under a service licence arrangement and the channel should be managed by a unitary board, protected by statute or Charter, along the lines of the current BBC model.
Other recommendations from the report include:
- S4C’s remit should be amended to remove the current geographical and television only restrictions, and to include a specific requirement to promote and foster the Welsh language;
- S4C should be able to work with independent producers to identify commercial potential and market content, while sharing the financial risks and benefits; and
- All public sector broadcasters in Wales should be required to provide part of their content in Welsh.
Bethan Jenkins, Chair of the Committee, said:
“In January this year, the Minister for Digital and Communications, Matt Hancock MP said their review of S4C would be announced ‘shortly’. Seven months on, we are still waiting. This lack of progress is disappointing.
“Currently, legislation on S4C is focused on its role providing television broadcasting; but we know that modern audiences consume content on their phones and stream programmes on-demand.
“Since 2011, S4C’s budget has fallen by £20million; that’s without taking inflation into account. If S4C is going to survive and thrive to promote Welsh language and culture, it must be able to compete for audiences online without being restricted by an outdated remit and a shrinking budget.
“S4C’s remit has not been looked at since 2004. Other public service broadcasters have been able to target programmes at specific audiences both demographically and online. This is something that has been difficult for S4C to do. This is in part because of its size and shrinking budget but also because it is hindered by an outdated remit which refers only to television broadcasting and makes it difficult to target audiences on other platforms, or Welsh speakers who live outside Wales.”
Read the full report:
Outside the Box: The Future of S4C (PDF, 906 KB)