‘Last time’ Westminster should consult on S4C say Welsh language campaigners
Language campaigners have said that it should be the “last time” a committee in Westminster should consult on broadcasting in Wales after a Welsh Affairs Committee consultation on the issue ended this week.
The Welsh Affairs Committee’s consultation on broadcasting in Wales closed on 22 August after looking at the issue of “what can be done to secure the future of public service broadcasting in Wales”.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that with the cooperation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government including a commitment to explore the devolution of broadcasting to Wales, it was “hopefully only a matter of time” before it happened.
The Welsh Government announced in June an expert panel on the devolution of broadcasting to “pave the way for the devolution of communications and broadcasting powers to Wales”.
Mirain Angharad, the vice-chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Broadcasting Group, said that if devolved to Wales, S4C’s public service ethos would be more likely to continue, which wasn’t guaranteed under the UK Government.
“The campaign for a Welsh language television channel began in the 1970s with a call for an Independent Broadcasting Authority for Wales which would have complete authority over broadcasting in Wales,” she said.
“Although S4C was established in 1982 that call has not been realised – Westminster still controls broadcasting here in Wales, and organises its funding with our taxes.
“The Co-operation Agreement agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government states that broadcasting and communication powers should be devolved to Wales and work to prepare the way for that has begun. So hopefully it’s only a matter of time until we can decide on the future of our own country’s broadcasting.”
The Westminster Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry has been seeking views on the sustainability of Welsh public service broadcasting funding models, the impact of the growth of global streaming platforms and changing viewing habits and what could be done to ensure the future of public service broadcasting.
In its response, Cymdeithas yr Iaith indicated concern that subscription models are seen as the way forward and that large companies are considered something that public broadcasting should emulate.
Mirain Angharad added: “It is clear that a model similar to Netflix or Amazon would not work for broadcasting in Wales, profit is the most important thing for companies like this, that is not what we want for S4C.
“There is no doubt though that broadcasting has changed significantly, on a sudden scale over recent years, and that it is high time to reconsider how to finance and develop broadcasting in Wales. Westminster has shown it is not interested – forty years since S4C was founded we only have one Welsh language TV channel, it has faced over a decade of cuts and is now funded entirely through the BBC; and attempts to encourage Welsh content and experiences on-line are few and far between.
“The answer is obvious – devolve powers and sufficient funding for Welsh broadcasting to Wales.”
Launching the Welsh Affairs Committee’s consultation in July, Welsh Affairs Committee Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP said that public service broadcasters in Wales “are facing a period of enormous change”.
“More and more viewers choose to stream content through online platforms,” he said. “Despite pressures on funding and investment, broadcasters continue to deliver high quality and original output in Wales.
“As a Committee, we are keen to identify what can be done to secure the future of public service broadcasting in Wales. Among other issues, we are exploring whether the model for public service broadcasting in Wales is sustainable, and how we can ensure the survival of free-to-air content.”
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