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Angry row at S4C board meeting as tensions mount over bullying inquiry

01 Jul 2023 4 minute read
S4C chair Rhodri Williams. Photo Welsh Government

Martin Shipton

A blazing row took place at an S4C board meeting after a senior executive wanted to discuss questions raised by Nation.Cymru about an ongoing investigation into bullying at the broadcaster, we can reveal.

The rumpus has led to a formal complaint being made about S4C’s unitary board chair Rhodri Williams.

The board of S4C decided in early May to ask Cardiff law firm Capital Law to investigate serious bullying allegations made by members of staff at the Welsh language TV channel.

A letter written to S4C’s non-executive board members by an official of the broadcasting union BECTU said that at a recent meeting of the union branch, four of its members had been in tears as they described their experiences of alleged bullying.

According to the letter, there was a toxic working environment at the channel and a lack of confidence in S4C management, with staff often feeling that they were ignored and belittled, undermined or patronised by members of the management team.

It said staff were often left in tears and were too afraid to raise concerns through the usual complaints process.

According to the letter, there was a meeting between union officials and S4C chief executive Sian Doyle last December. It said she acknowledged that things had been very difficult and that management were to blame for the way people felt, but that the term “bullying” had been used too readily.


Although union members reported a short period of improvement, the BECTU official suggested that a mechanism needed to be established where individuals had the confidence to discuss their experiences with an independent investigator, who would reach a conclusion on where any blame could be apportioned and make recommendations.

At first it was thought the investigation would take no more than a few weeks, but it is understood that more employees and ex-employees of S4C have come forward to give evidence than was initially expected. It’s increasingly likely that the Capital Law report won’t be delivered until the autumn.

Recently we reported how a senior S4C executive had suffered stress-related heart failure while attending a corporate “away day” at the Urdd Centre in Llangrannog on the Ceredigion coast. The executive concerned was driven 26 miles to the nearest general hospital – Glangwili in Carmarthen. Later they were transferred to the specialist coronary care unit at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital.

We now understand that during the most recent S4C board meeting, another senior executive wanted to discuss questions raised by Nation.Cymru about the incident, but the chair Rhodri Williams said it would be inappropriate to discuss matters that were under investigation by Capital Law. The senior executive is said to have persisted in an attempt to discuss the matter, but that Mr Williams insisted on closing down the discussion, leading to raised voices.


An S4C insider contacted us to say: “You might want to investigate an incident that happened in the last S4C board meeting, where chair Rhodri Williams completely lost his rag in a very aggressive and inappropriate way against [a named executive]. I believe the incident has been reported to the DCMS [the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which scrutinises S4C] – and that the board members have been named as witnesses.”

We asked Mr Williams to respond to the comments of the insider. He issued a statement to us which said: “It is disappointing that someone has seen fit to share inaccurate information regarding what was a private and confidential informal meeting of the non-executive directors of the S4C Shadow Unitary Board and Management Team.

“As I have stressed since the beginning of the process, confidentiality is essential to the investigation currently being undertaken by Capital Law into allegations of bullying made by BECTU on behalf of some of its members at S4C. As a member and Chair of the S4C Shadow Unitary Board I have a duty of confidentiality which I must respect, and I am not therefore able to comment on this matter.”

The executive who clashed with Mr Williams at the board meeting was offered the opportunity to comment, but decided not to.

It is understood that a complaint has been made to S4C’s human resources department about Mr Williams’ conduct of the meeting.

DCMS would see the matter as an internal issue for S4C in which it would not intervene.

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