‘Last time’ Westminster should decide on S4C budget say campaigners
Language campaigners have said that this year should be the “last time” that the Westminster government is in charge of deciding on S4C’s financial settlement.
The UK Government is currently in the process of deciding how much money S4C should have for the 2022-27 period.
Since 2010, S4C’s budget has been cut every year by 36% in real terms.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith has now written to the UK Minister for Media and Data, John Whittingdale MP, calling for broadcasting powers to be transferred to Wales.
They 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.
“The only way we can ensure a fair financial settlement for S4C in the long term is by transferring broadcasting powers to Wales. Cross-party consensus exists in Wales in favour of devolving S4C and broadcasting powers to Wales, following the publication of the Culture Committee’s report on the issue in March.
“Not only this, but 65% of the people of Wales support the transfer of broadcasting powers to Wales. The Westminster Government should respect the wishes of the people of Wales and allow us to decide S4C’s financial settlement, as well as broadcasting policy as a whole, for ourselves.”
Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan yesterday called on the Culture Secretary to give an early statement providing clarity on the improved funding needed for the S4C.
“The Welsh language has been spoken on these islands, indeed on this island, since long before the English language arrived on our shores,” he said in the House of Commons.
“In fact, the Welsh epic poem Y Gododdin describes a battle in the 6th century between Anglo-Saxon invaders and Welsh-speaking warriors from the south of Scotland. The battle took place in modern-day Yorkshire.
“Does the Leader of the House agree that we should have an early statement from the Culture Secretary to give clarity on the improved funding needed for the Welsh language broadcaster S4C so that it can help to ensure that Welsh, spoken daily by half a million people in the UK, continues to survive and thrive in the digital age?”
After praising the Welsh language, Jacob Rees Mogg responded that “it may be better for the Welsh Government to take up these matters, because it is for them to promote the Welsh language, though I am aware that S4C is in a slightly different category”.
Welsh culture is devolved to the Welsh Government, but funding decisions for S4C come from the UK Government.
In their letter to UK Minister for Media and Data, John Whittingdale MP, Cymdeithas yr Iath said that the UK Government “does not seem to understand the linguistic and cultural context of Wales”.
“We believe that broadcasting powers should be transferred to Wales to ensure a fair long-term financial settlement for the only Welsh-language television channel in the world,” they said.
The letter goes on to say: “Since 2010, S4C’s budget has been cut every year by 36% in real terms, and the channel has 40% fewer staff. It is inarguable that S4C has contributed more than any other public broadcaster to the savings of the public purse.
“S4C is the only Welsh-language television channel in the world — the value of the channel is therefore much more important than what the market can reward.
“S4C plays a vital linguistic, cultural and educational role in Wales, and the channel is also key in providing Welsh news to the people of Wales, showcasing the stories of ordinary people in Wales, and scrutinising our elected politicians.
“The continued existence and success of the channel is therefore vital not only to the Welsh language and culture, but also to our democratic process. As the market on its own is unable to sustain S4C’s cultural wealth, S4C needs the support of additional public money.”
Research published in April suggested that S4C is worth more than twice as much to the economy as it gets in funding, research has revealed.
In its last financial year, 2020-21, the channel received £74.5m from the BBC licence fee and £21.85m from the UK Government.
However, work by Arad Research showed that it had a total economic impact of £197.4m in 2019-20. Of its total impact, some £141.1m was felt in the Welsh economy, with £18.2m in Carmarthenshire where the channel is headquartered alone.
That consisted of a £96.7m direct impact from its spending on goods, services and wages, including those of freelancers, as well as an indirect impact of £800,000 from its anchor tenancy of the Yr Egin creative industries building in Carmarthen.
Its expenditure generated further demand and employment which support an estimated 2,334 UK employees and freelancers, of which 2,229 were estimated as being based in Wales and 245 in Carmarthenshire.
S4C’s chief executive, Owen Evans, told Business Wales: “This is an extremely important one [research] for us as the results have been included in our submission to the UK Government’s Department of Digital Technology, Culture, Media and Sport as part of a debate over S4C’s financial settlement from April 2022 onwards.
“There’s never been any doubt in my mind about the importance of S4C to the Welsh economy. The 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.
“The relocation from Llanishen to Yr Egin ensured that S4C was at the forefront of creating job opportunities in West Wales and I’m extremely proud that we now have offices in Caernarfon, Carmarthen and Cardiff. This shows the positive impact of S4C throughout the whole of Wales.“
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This is all true, but quite apart from S4C the Conservative governments’ financial treatment of the BBC from 2010 onwards has been an under-reported and under-publicised disgrace.