Licence fee cut ‘fundamental threat to our language and culture‘ says MP
An MP has described a real-term cut to the TV licence fee as a “fundamental threat to our language and culture” in Wales.
Arfon MP Hywel Williams said that plans to freeze and then abolish the license fee would threaten “hundreds of jobs” in Welsh communities.
Writing in the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald newspaper, he added that there was “nowhere else to go” for programmes broadcast in Welsh if the BBC and S4C disappeared.
Nadine Dorries announced in the House of Commons on Monday that the BBC licence fee would be frozen for two years and come to an end in 2028.
She announced that S4C would get an extra £7.5m to spend on extra digital services, but its future is also unclear as it is from April almost completely dependent on the license fee for its funding.
Hywel Williams said that due to inflation, freezing the license fee “really means a cut”.
“And the knock on for us Is the possible cut to S4C and to Radio Cymru,” the Plaid Cymru MP said.
“For both Radio Cymru and the channel are mainly funded through the licence. Freeze and cut the licence and the danger is you freeze and cut services In Welsh.
“The danger though is to S4C’s main offering, including the popular programmes made here In Gwynedd. And the further knock on will be the threat to the hundreds of jobs that MC supports in our communities.
“And at the root of this is the fundamental threat to our language and culture. For S4C and Radio Cymru are nearly all that there is broadcast in Welsh. There Is nowhere else to go.”
He added that moving the BBC to a subscription service would not serve the Welsh language.
“Has anyone seen a programme In Welsh on Netflix, Amazon Prime and the rest of them?” he asked.
The Financial Times reported today that Chancellor Rishi Sunak had led a cabinet pushback against calls for an end to the BBC licence fee since Monday’s announcement.
UK government insiders told the newspaper that Sunak had told Dorries there had not been proper cabinet discussion on whether the licence fee should ultimately be replaced.
Revealing the license fee freeze on Monday, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said that the BBC was a “great national institution with a unique place in our cultural heritage”.
“It broadcasts British values and identities all over the world and reaches hundreds of millions of people every day,” she said.
“But at a time when families are facing a sharp increase in their living costs we simply could not justify asking hard-working households to pay even more for their TV licence.
“This is a fair settlement for the BBC and for licence fee payers. The BBC must support people at a time when their finances are strained, make savings and efficiencies, and use the billions in public funding it receives to deliver for viewers, listeners and users.”
The UK Government said that S4C’s settlement will consolidate S4C’s current £74.5m annual Licence Fee funding with its current £6.8m annual DCMS grant income.
It says it will also award S4C a further £7.5 million per annum from the Licence Fee to support its digital development. This follows a five-year funding freeze.
In total, this will provide S4C with approximately £88.8 million in Licence Fee funding per annum, the UK Government says, which will rise in line with increases to the Licence Fee linked to inflation after the second year of the settlement period.
The new funding regime will come into effect from 1 April 2022, with the settlement continuing until 31 March 2027. It remains unclear how S4C will be funded after the licence fee comes to an end.
Responding to the Secretary of State’s announcement, S4C Chair Rhodri Williams said: “This settlement reflects the faith of the DCMS, and the Secretary of State Nadine Dorries, in S4C’s vision for the next five years. Given the economic climate, this financial settlement, which comes after months of negotiation between the channel and the Government, provides a good basis for S4C to plan for the next period.
“We thank the Secretary of State and her officials for a constructive and positive process that has shown support for S4C’s ambition. We are also grateful to the Secretary of State for Wales, members of Parliament, members of the Senedd, members of the House of Lords and a large number of organisations, associations and friends across Wales who supported our cause. Showing that there is cross-party support throughout Wales strengthened S4C’s case as we submitted our application to the DCMS.”
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