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Irish language TV boss slams government’s ‘lack of ambition’ for channel compared to S4C

08 Sep 2021 3 minute read
TG4 head office. Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The director-general of an Irish-language broadcaster has slammed the “lack of ambition” of the Republic of Ireland’s government in supporting the channel, compared with the way Welsh language broadcasting is supported in Wales.

TG4, an Irish language free-to-air public service television network, is needed “more than ever” said Alan Esslemont, and should get the same support as S4C in Wales.

“Compared to the way Welsh is supported in Wales, the Irish State continues to display a clear lack of ambition for the Irish-speaking communities and for Irish language media,” he said. “The Greeks have a saying: big results require big ambitions.”

The TG4 boss was speaking on a livestreamed virtual event outlining the channel’s upcoming schedule of drama, documentary, entertainment and sport.

“Our unique purpose sets us apart and we’re a vital part of modern Ireland,” he added. “But after 25 years, we do need the Government to show much more ambition for TG4 and free us from the old paradigm of second-class or third-class resourcing in which TnaG was launched in 1996.

“The wording of the 2009 Broadcasting Act delivers very little between the public service duties of RTÉ and those of TG4, however TG4 is only allocated a tenth of the resources of RTÉ. So the present public service media ecosystem in Ireland is clearly monolithic.”

S4C Headquarters in Carmarthen. Picture by Rhodri ap Dyfrig (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Last year TG4 received the equivalent of £35m from the Irish exchequer to cover 2021. S4C meanwhile received £74.5m from the BBC licence fee and £21.85m from the UK Government.

The UK Government is currently in the process of deciding how much money S4C should have for the 2022-27 period. In 2010 the channel was handed a 36% budget cut.

Outgoing S4C chief executive Owen Evans said in June that S4C was a key part of Wales’ economy. “he fact that S4C can have an impact on the UK economy also, as well as an impact in Wales and in Carmarthenshire in particular through our headquarters at Canolfan S4C Yr Egin is hugely encouraging,” he said.

Welsh language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith meanwhile want responsibility over the channel devolved to the Welsh Government and a fair financial settlement for the channel.

The chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Digital Group, Elfed Wyn Jones, said that S4C deserves much more than “crumbs from the Westminster Government”.

“It deserves a fair financial settlement that recognises the linguistic and cultural contribution that it makes, and a settlement that enables the channel’s continued success. This is the last time that S4C should have to beg DCMS for a fair financial settlement every five years.”

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2 years ago

I had the privilege as Chair of the Public Sector Committee of the WLB to attend the launch in Co Galway of the then TNaG by Michael D Higgins who was then the responsible Minister. He an enthusiastic disciple of Raymond Williams was so complimentary of ‘ Channel 4 Wales ‘ At the launch reception I was on a table with several Irish Gvt Civil servants who openly displayed unfortunately attitudes of post colonial guilt with regard to their languages relevance in the emerging 21st Century world 🌎. They seemed happy with a limited opt out / in service for… Read more »

Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
2 years ago

Sadly, with just 90,000 fluent speakers out of a population of 5 million, Irish can hardly be described as a strong or healthy living language. Even the Irish output contains so much English and contributors to the programmes have little mastery of it.

Like S4C prior to 2010, the channel relies on its English language output to draw viewers. It shows big films and series like South Park just to get an audience.

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