Plaid Cymru calls for devolution of broadcasting to safeguard the future of Welsh media
A Plaid MS has called for the immediate devolution of broadcasting and warned that hostility towards the BBC from the UK Government will endanger the future of Welsh media.
Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Culture, Heledd Fychan MS, has hit out following reports of an imminent announcement that the BBC licence fee is set to be frozen for the next two years.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorris is expected to announce a two-year freeze to the BBC license fee this week, which is likely to mean that Welsh language television channel S4C will also face real-terms cuts.
S4C’s public funding will be provided entirely through the licence fee from the 2022-23 financial year onwards, with all future funding decisions made as part of the BBC licence fee funding settlement.
In its last financial year, 2020-21, S4C received £74.5m from the BBC licence fee and £21.85m from the UK Government.
Further reports suggest that this may be the last announcement of its kind relating to the BBC licence fee and that the existing funding model could be scrapped altogether after 2027.
Heledd Fychan MS accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of attempting to appease certain factions in his party after a calamitous week for the Conservatives.
Heledd Fychan MS said: “Reports of a two-year freeze to the BBC licence fee will give rise to great uncertainty for the future of Welsh media, particularly our national channel S4C which will be funded entirely from the licence fee.
“The UK Government is showing increasing hostility towards the BBC whilst at the same time, local news output is waning. This puts Wales at the sharp end of the media deficit which is damaging our democracy.
“That is why Plaid Cymru is calling for the immediate devolution of broadcasting so that the future of S4C and BBC Wales are no longer in the hands of a Tory government which is out of touch and out of its depth when it comes to protecting distinct Welsh media provision.
“With further talk of the licence fee being scrapped altogether after 2027, I urge the Welsh Government to act now to ensure that our national media isn’t trapped in a race to the bottom where profit trumps quality provision.”
If there is no increase in the license fee, S4C’s share of that money is also unlikely to rise, leaving it facing possible cutbacks if inflation rises 5% as the Bank of England expects. If the license fee did rise in line with inflation it would be £175 in two years’ time.
Liz Saville Roberts MP said in a tweet that the move was authoritarian attempt “to close down scrutiny of government” which amounted to “cultural vandalism.”
The license fee agreement was due to be announced in the summer before Nadine Dorris took the culture brief in a reshuffle and decided to revisit it. The decision due to be announced by the end of the month will come into effect from 1 April.
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