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MPs call for Rhodri Williams to be replaced as chair of S4C

10 Jan 2024 8 minute read
S4C chair Rhodri Williams. Photo Welsh Government

Martin Shipton

A committee of MPs has called for the removal of Rhodri Williams as chair of S4C following a turbulent period in which the broadcaster’s chief executive Sian Doyle was sacked in a bullying scandal.

Following a meeting of the Welsh Affairs Committee at the House of Commons, at which Mr Williams gave evidence, committee chair Stephen Crabb wrote to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer calling for Mr Williams not to be reappointed when his term of office as chair comes to an end in March.

In the letter, Mr Crabb said: “S4C is a vital part of our national life and culture; promoting and supporting the Welsh language, Wales and the many talented individuals who work in the broadcasting sector. The committee was concerned by some of the evidence we heard, in particular regarding the effective leadership and governance of the organisation. Urgent work is required to update HR policies and practices; there seems to be an absence of cultural leadership at Board level and we are concerned at the approach Mr Williams and the Board took in seeking advice and reaching assurance in relation to key decisions it made.

“In addition, the committee was not satisfied by the assurances from Mr Williams and [non-executive board member Chris] Jones that the different complaints made against specific individuals had been handled equitably and with proper consideration of the fair treatment of all those involved.

“Following the session, the committee remains concerned about the ability of the current leadership to oversee the changes required to rebuild trust at all levels of the organisation and with its wider stakeholders. Given the importance of S4C and the scale of the challenges with respect to improving governance and culture within the organisation, we recommend that the Government appoint a new chair to take this work forward.”

Grilling

During the meeting Mr Williams told the committee that he would be happy to be reappointed as chair for a second term. He made the statement in response to a question put to him by Mr Crabb at the end of a 90-minute grilling by members of the committee in Westminster.

Ms Doyle was dismissed in November following the findings of a report from Cardiff law firm Capital Law which detailed multiple instances of bullying engaged in by her.

Mr Williams faced a series of challenging questions from Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs.

He said that despite allegations to the contrary, the way the bullying allegations were dealt with was decided unanimously by the non-executive members of S4C’s board.

The trade union Bectu initially raised concerns about the treatment of its members with the broadcaster’s executive management team in December 2022. The non-executive board members were informed of this and told by Ms Doyle that the situation was improving.

However, in April 2023 Bectu wrote a letter to the board, saying that matters had got worse, and calling for an investigation into the “toxic culture” within the organisation to be investigated in a way that protected staff members, who were scared to come forward and make individual grievance complaints.

Investigation

Non-executive members of the board decided to appoint Capital Law. The investigation took longer than expected because of the large number of current and former S4C staff who wanted to give evidence.

Mr Crabb reminded Mr Williams that when he was appointed chair, he had told MPs that he felt equipped to bring about a “culture of inclusivity” at S4C that he felt had been lacking. Asked whether he had failed in that mission, Mr Williams said: “I think yes is the answer to that, in that the Capital Law report paints a picture of the culture within the organisation … If we look at the last 12 months, there is no way anybody could say that the culture within the organisation has been a healthy one.The Capital Law report makes it very clear where the responsibility for that lies. I don’t think it is with me and I don’t think it is with the board. The Capital Law report states very clearly that the chief executive at the time acted in a confrontational, abusive and inconsiderate manner – and I think that’s where the failure has been in terms of the management of the organisation.

“When it became clear to us as non-executive members of the board, the extent of those problems, the toxic culture, the culture of fear that existed within the organisation, we acted very quickly to put in place a process which provided safety [and] security to members of staff wishing to step up.”

He said the report itself had taken a long time to produce, and then it took more time to prepare a version that could be published without compromising people’s privacy.

Sacked

Asked about a finding that he had acted inappropriately when raising his voice in a board meeting to Llinos Griffin Williams, S4C’s chief content officer, whom he subsequently sacked, Mr Williams said he had apologised after being asked to do so by a non-executive director, former Conservative MP Guto Bebb, who had investigated a complaint made by Ms Griffin Williams. Mr Williams said he had raised his voice when Ms Griffin Williams had failed to desist when he asked her not to raise a confidential matter that was under investigation by Capital Law. Both Mr Williams and Chris Jones, a non-executive director of S4C who also gave evidence at the hearing, said there was no equivalence between this incident and the general concerns about bullying made by S4C staff .

Asked by Newport West Labour MP Ruth Jones whether it had been appropriate for him to dismiss Ms Griffin Williams following an incident during the Rugby World Cup in France when she verbally attacked in public members of a TV production team working for S4C, Mr Williams said: “What happened when Llinos Griffin Williams was in Nantes was an issue that created immediate detrimental effect to the reputation of S4C. What happened was in the full view not only of members of the public, but of many journalists and television staff, not just from S4C but from other organisations. The damage to S4C’s reputation was immediate and it was very clear – there was no doubt, I took very detailed legal advice – that what happened was gross misconduct and it was my view that needed to be resolved immediately.”

Asked by Ynys Mon Conservative MP Virginia Crosbie about the culture and working environment within S4C now, Mr Williams said: “I think they have improved substantially. I had a letter from Bectu on Friday which said: ‘Having met with our members … I am pleased to report that they have noted recent improvements to their working environment. It has been a hard and a deeply distressing period for S4C’s workforce, and I am pleased to hear them speaking with optimism about their workplace and the channel once again.”

Asked by Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake, and also Mr Crabb, why the findings of the Capital Law report had not been shared with Ms Doyle before she was dismissed in the interests of natural justice, Mr Williams said: “I think the letter of dismissal sent to the chief executive by the non-executive members of the board set out very clearly the reasons for her dismissal and I think that was sufficient.”

Reappointment

Asked by Mr Crabb whether he would be seeking reappointment as chair of S4C when his current term ends in March, Mr Williams said: “I don’t think it’s a matter for me to seek reappointment. It’s a matter for the Secretary of State to decide whether or not she would like to offer me a second term.

“I would be very happy to do so should the opportunity arise. There is a re-building process that will need to happen whether I’m the chair or whether it’s someone else.

“I would certainly be willing to play a part in that and will always provide my support to S4C as an institution regardless as to whether or not I’m reappointed as chair.”

Asked by Mr Crabb whether it would not be in the best interests of the channel to have a clean start under new leadership, Mr Williams said: “No – to be perfectly honest. That’s certainly not what I’m told by members of staff or by members of the production community. I don’t think there’s any evidence that I have – other people clearly have very strong views on the matter but I don’t share those.”


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Frank
Frank
1 month ago

Some people get too big for their boots. I wonder how much this guy gets paid for being at the helm of a television station that mainly shows children’s shows and cartoons during the day and constant repeats of programmes like Cefn Gwlad, Y Lle, Phillips yn Dubai etc. until we know the dialogue by heart and sick of them? I have seen some programmes being repeated nearly every day for weeks on end. Get a grip for goodness sake and run the station professionally. My first language is Cymraeg but I have no objection if programmes/dramas are made back… Read more »

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Time 🕰️ up ⬆️ for S4C Board…..

A new start with representation from ALL of Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 please – not the cosy self selection media luvies.

James Kennard
James Kennard
1 month ago

Looks like Shipton backed the wrong horse. After seeing that today it is obvious where the problems in S4C lie. If I was SD and LGW I would take S4C, Rhodri Williams and the rest of the incompetent board to the cleaners! Absolute farce that this has been allowed to ruin peoples lives, careers and as reports suggest near enough someones life. I would he very suprised if they dont have a lawsuit on their hands. He needs to go. Now. Williams, Have some self respect and resign before you are pushed out.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  James Kennard

I don’t think you can use Williams’ evident defects to excuse the behavioural defects of Ms Doyle and Ms Williams. Questions need to be asked, again, about the procedures that enable such people to be recruited into these roles. Also, it begs further questions about the prevalence of deviant attitudes and behaviours among persons holding senior positions. Do they bring that baggage with them from their own early lives, or is this something that is acquired through exposure to “bad” corporate cultures during their career development? We see similar characteristics in other fields – politics and sports, for instance, so… Read more »

James Kennard
James Kennard
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

But we don’t actually know the truth about what SD and LGW did because they weren’t given a right to reply or anything else before being dismissed. Watching him in the senedd today, you can see that he is a bully; you can see that he is self-important and does not care about anything but keeping his job. If Rhodri Williams called me a bully and then hired a law firm to back it up, but I was not allowed to reply, see the report, or anything else, how would I dispute those claims? Also, he lied yesterday. He was… Read more »

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