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Concern over selection process for new S4C Chair

28 Feb 2024 4 minute read
S4C’s headquarters in Carmarthen. Photo via Google

Martin Shipton

Concerns have been raised about the process being used by the UK Government to appoint a new Chair of S4C following the decision of Rhodri Williams not to seek a second four-year term in the role.

Mr Williams is standing down following a tumultuous period at the Welsh language broadcaster during which chief executive Sian Doyle was sacked for gross misconduct.

Non-executive members of S4C’s board decided to dismiss Ms Doyle after the delivery of a damning report by Cardiff law firm on a toxic culture of bullying that had developed under her leadership.

S4C’s chief content officer Llinos Griffin-Williams was also dismissed following a drunken rant in France during the Rugby World Cup in France when she abused members of a TV production company in public at two separate venues.

Mr Williams will be standing down as Chair at the end of March and the process to appoint a successor is expected to get underway soon. It’s thought likely that an interim Chair will take over from early April until the full appointment is made.

Lucy Frazer

Broadcasting is not devolved and the appointment of a new S4C Chair will be made by Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. However, the UK Government acknowledges that the Welsh Government should have a role in the appointment.

In a recent letter to Delyth Jewell, who chairs the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee, Ms Frazer stated: “With regard to the Committee’s specific question about the formal role of the Welsh Government in the public appointment of the new Chair of S4C, as you will know, S4C public appointments are made in compliance with the Broadcasting Act 1990 and appointments are made by the Secretary of State.

“While broadcasting is not a devolved issue, the DCMS Concordat with the Welsh Assembly Government states that ‘DCMS will consult with the Minister for Heritage on “Welsh appointments” to the Boards of the BBC and S4C.’

“In accordance with this, as has been standard for previous S4C appointments, the Welsh Government is invited to appoint a representative to the Advisory Assessment Panel, which is responsible for assessing which candidates are appointable for the role. In addition, the Welsh Government is consulted on the role specification prior to the launch of the campaign, and asked to suggest potential candidates to approach for the role.

“The Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism [Dawn Bowden] is also formally consulted for views at the final appointment decision stage. You will be aware that the role is also subject to a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing by a parliamentary Select Committee before an appointment can be confirmed.

“I consider that the above measures already provide the Welsh Government with a formal role in the upcoming appointments process for the Chair of S4C and do not consider any changes to be required at this time. The UK Government remains committed to ensuring the future success of S4C and Welsh-language broadcasting.”

Stronger role

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Given the importance of S4C to Wales, the Deputy Minister has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ask for a more formal, stronger role in the S4C Board appointments process, which follows the same arrangement as we currently have for BBC board member appointments in Wales.”

The BBC’s Royal Charter states: “No appointment shall be made for the Board member for Wales without the agreement of the Welsh Ministers.”

In 2016 and 2017 Blaenau Gwent MS Alun Davies was the Welsh Government Minister responsible for the Welsh language. During his time in the role a new BBC board member for Wales was appointed.

He told Nation.Cymru: “I wasn’t interested in getting involved in the appointment myself, but I wanted to ensure that the best person got the job. That meant the candidate who got the best marks from the appointments panel.

“I objected when I discovered that the DCMS Secretary of State wanted to appoint the person who came third, who happened to be a member of the Conservative Party.

“The appointment didn’t happen and we therefore got the best person available. Effectively I had a veto. My view is that the person judged to be the best candidate should always get the job, and by lodging an objection I ensured that was the case.

“We need a proper conversation about how these appointments – S4C, BBC, Ofcom – are made. There should be a common process whereby the Welsh Government and DCMS take all decisions jointly.”


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Aled Powell
Aled Powell
1 month ago

“We need a proper conversation about how these appointments – S4C, BBC, Ofcom – are made.”
Yes. And others – commissioners, ombudsmen, tribunal members…

“There should be a common process whereby the Welsh Government and DCMS take all decisions jointly.”
No. Such appointments should be decided by Senedd/Parliament and approved by government, not the other way around. Huge difference.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Aled Powell

Simples defund the BBC pay for what you want to watch.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Is that all you can articulate? A brain-dead mantra that completely ignores that licence payers are actually paying for what they want to watch.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
1 month ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

They are also forced to pay for that which they don’t want to watch.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

BBC is a great organisation. Political meddling aside, you get a lot for the licence including local news, local and national radio, national coverage with no ISP access. You get fantastic documentaries and all the gamuts of programs in between. And all this is costing the UK less than what certain online content owners owe in debt. BBC also drives innovation and and involved with technological drives and part of that great organisation, EBU. Where there is a lot of crossover. Streaming models, most of the usual suspects are in debt to the tune of billions. And they have less… Read more »

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Chance for a new start with a new Board representing all of Wales not the Cardiff Bay neo luvies mix of usual suspects and mates of the great and the good I hope

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard

Don’t hold your breath !

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

They put Gibb and Davies at the top of the BBC. Never underestimate the UK Gov to meddle here. They have already messed with BBC funding (that affects S4C) and now effectively manage political bent at the BBC. BBC is a fantastic organisation and S4C has a massive potential but this government doesn’t like a free voice.

Lets see what happens.

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