Rhodri Williams to leave as Chair of S4C in March
Rhodri Williams, the beleaguered Chair of S4C, has told UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer that he doesn’t want to be considered for a second four-year period in the post after his current term comes to an end in March.
Mr Williams has been heavily embroiled in dealing with a major bullying scandal at the Welsh language broadcaster which culminated in the dismissal of chief executive Sian Doyle in November.
After the trade union Bectu complained on behalf of its members, S4C commissioned Cardiff law firm Capital Law to investigate allegations of bullying by Ms Doyle and her close ally, the broadcaster’s head of content Llinos Griffin-Williams.
Ms Griffin-Williams was dismissed for gross misconduct following a drunken rant during the Rugby World Cup in France when she abused members of a TV production company. The Capital Law report subsequently revealed that a toxic culture existed at S4C, presided over by Ms Doyle. She was also dismissed.
Last week, following hearings at which Mr Williams was questioned, both the Welsh Affairs Committee at the House of Commons and the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee wrote to Ms Frazer calling on her not to reappoint Mr Williams as S4C Chair.
Breakdown in governance
The Welsh Affairs Committee cited a breakdown in governance while the Senedd committee said there had been “serious failures in both the executive and non-executive levels of leadership at the channel”.
The Senedd committee added: “We find it wholly unacceptable that neither you, as Secretary of State, nor indeed your predecessors, have seen fit to meet the leadership of S4C, a UK public service broadcaster, over whose governance you have ultimate responsibility. As was made clear to us today, requests were made for a meeting to be held between S4C and the Secretary of State to discuss the ongoing situation.
“We were astonished to find out that those requests were not accepted. In our view, the principle of S4C’s governance being a matter reserved to the UK Government has been undermined by this apathy. We would therefore urge you to ensure that the Welsh Government has a formal role in the appointment of the next chair of S4C, so that there is a joint responsibility between DCMS and the Welsh Government for making the appointment.”
Earlier, during the Senedd committee meeting, Mr Williams criticised the MPs who called for his removal, claiming they had shown no interest in the plight of workers bullied by sacked chief executive Sian Doyle.
Now Mr Williams has bowed to the inevitable and written to Ms Frazer himself asking her not to consider reappointing him. In his letter he stated: “Since March 2020, it has been my privilege to serve as Chair of S4C – an organisation which is close to my heart having participated in the campaign to secure its establishment over 40 years ago.
During recent months, the Board, under my leadership, has had to respond to the most challenging of circumstances and has been required to make some very difficult decisions. I have at all times sought to act in the best interests of S4C, our staff, and the wider production sector in Wales. I remain grateful for their support during this difficult period.
“My term as Chair expires on 31 March and I want to let you know that I am not seeking reappointment for a further term. I will of course remain fully supportive of S4C and hope its vital role in Welsh life will be safeguarded.”
Ms Frazer responded: “Thank you for your letter today confirming that you do not wish to seek reappointment as Chair of S4C for a second term from 1 April 2024. Since its launch in 1982, S4C has made a valuable contribution to the lives and wellbeing of Welsh speakers and learners. That is something we want to see continue and thrive in the years to come.
“We understand the challenging circumstances that S4C has faced recently and will move swiftly to work with the Board to nominate an interim Chair to take up the role after your term ends on 31 March. I will shortly confirm the arrangements for the selection of a new Chair to provide long-term stability for the organisation.
“Thank you for your contribution as Chair to S4C over the last four years and to the wider broadcasting sector in Wales.”
Ms Frazer has also written to members of S4C’s Board, stating: Since its launch in 1982, S4C has made a valuable contribution to the lives and wellbeing of Welsh speakers and learners. This Government is committed to helping S4C to adapt to the changing media landscape, including through the vital reforms in the Media Bill which is currently going through Parliament. You will also be aware of how we are supporting S4C with an additional £7.5m per year from April 2022 until 2028 on top of its funding from the Licence Fee to support its digital development. I recognise and celebrate the many achievements S4C has made in the last few years, including as a result of this additional support.
“Despite these achievements, S4C has been experiencing a challenging period. Serious concerns have been raised including in the Capital Law report. My department has always been clear that the Board has a responsibility to address the concerns raised with commensurate seriousness.
“I followed with interest the evidence sessions last week at both the Welsh Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons and the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee.
“As was noted in these appearances, recent events show that a significant amount of work is required to rebuild trust in and at S4C – not just the trust of its staff, but also that of those with whom the organisation works more widely. Clearly there are lessons to learn, and it is vital that such reflection is incorporated into your plans moving forward.
“Developing those plans needs to proceed without delay. I therefore strongly encourage the Board and the acting senior team at S4C to move as quickly as possible to agree a programme of future-facing work which addresses the serious issues of culture, management and policies which are needed in any working environment. Given the scale of the challenge, I would also invite you to consider seeking external advice and input to help identify how S4C’s culture and practices can be strengthened. I request that you provide me and my officials with an update about the Board’s collective decisions, detailed next steps and timescales.
“It is important to bring a fresh start to S4C to help the organisation to draw a line under this period. The Chair has confirmed to me today that he will not seek appointment for a second term. I will therefore launch the process to appoint a new chair of S4C.
“I will shortly confirm the arrangements for both the selection of a new chair, which will be run in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments; and I will work with the Board to nominate an interim chair after the Chair’s term ends on 31 March while this appointment process concludes.
“The UK government remains committed to ensuring the future success of S4C and Welsh-language broadcasting.”
A statement on behalf of the S4C Board said:”We have received and noted the Secretary of State’s comments in her letter following the Chairman’s decision not to propose his name for a second term.
“We are currently working on a plan to ensure a successful future for S4C and the sector, working closely with colleagues and key partners, in order to continue to provide high quality services to our audiences.
“We will update the DCMS and the Secretary of State regarding the details as soon as possible. Fostering and building an open, transparent, inclusive and forward-looking culture is our utmost priority.
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