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S4C appoints interim chief executive and publishes plan to move on from ‘toxic culture’

29 Feb 2024 8 minute read
Sioned Wiliam

Martin Shipton

S4C has announced the appointment of an interim chief executive and published an action plan aimed at restoring confidence in the broadcaster after the most torrid period in its 40-year history.

The previous chief executive , Sian Doyle, was sacked after a report from Cardiff law firm Capital Law exposed a culture of toxic bullying within the organisation, while her close ally Llinos Griffin-Williams, the channel’s chief content officer, was dismissed after an extended drunken rant during the Rugby World Cup in France in which she berated a TV production crew.

Sioned Wiliam is the interim chief executive. Well known in the industry as a former BBC Radio 4 comedy commissioner and former head of comedy at ITV, she was previously a programme producer at Talkback and Hat Trick.

New role

She will start her new role part-time in March, before joining S4C full-time in April. Her main responsibility over the coming months will be to lead on S4C’s action plan, which has been approved by the unitary board, and follows the publication of the Capital Law Report.

The plan sets out a programme of work to fully address the issues S4C has faced since 2022, the aim being to restore the trust of S4C staff and the creative sector by looking at the leadership, culture, HR policies and procedures, and governance of the organisation.

As part of the plan external experts will lead a review of the organisation’s values, there will be an external review of the effectiveness of S4C governance, managers will receive training on leadership and change management, and internal communications will also be strengthened.

Following the appointment of Ms Wiliam, Geraint Evans will continue in his role as interim chief content officer and Elin Morris will continue as S4C’s chief operating officer.

It is also expected that Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will appoint an interim Chair soon to lead S4C’s unitary board.

Difficult time

Rhodri Williams, Chair of S4C’s unitary board, said: “I look forward to welcoming Sioned to S4C following an unprecedentedly difficult time for our workforce. Sioned’s leadership experience as well as her background and experience in the industry brings a breath of fresh air to S4C, and her priority will be to ensure the action plan inspires change across the organisation – for the benefit of our people, the creative sector and of course our audiences.

“I know Sioned is keen to get to grips with restoring confidence and trust in S4C, ensuring that S4C is once again a happy place to work, that people feel they can be at their best and do their best for S4C and the Welsh language.

“On behalf of the board’s non-executive directors I would like to thank S4C’s staff and management team for their dedication and professionalism over the past few months, knowing that they will give Sioned every support to implement the Action Plan and restore faith in S4C.”

Sioned Wiliam said: “I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be part of the story of S4C – a channel that has been an integral part of my life since it began – as a viewer, producer, presenter and as a grateful mum. S4C’s offering is very special and the relationship between the channel and the audience is vital – I look forward to doing everything I can to facilitate this.

“I want to make sure S4C is a good place to work, where staff are respected and supported. Everyone involved with the channel must be able to trust it knowing it will work for the benefit of the workforce, stakeholders and audience.”

Action plan

S4C’s action plan states: “The Capital Law report raised serious issues and some of these still require attention. We are committed to ensuring that S4C is a place where our colleagues feel respected, supported, and motivated to perform at their best. We are acutely aware that significant work is required to restore confidence and trust in S4C as an organisation amongst our staff and our stakeholders in the creative sector.

“Our programme of work has been developed in consultation with stakeholders, including members of staff and the BECTU union. It is based around four themes: leadership, culture, HR policies and procedures, and governance. We outline further detail on each theme below.

“The unitary board will be ultimately responsible for the action plan, with a standing item at every Board meeting to report on progress against individual actions. Progress against the action plan will also be shared with the DCMS as part of existing quarterly meeting arrangements.

“The effectiveness of steps being taken as part of the action plan will be considered in the context of various feedback mechanisms, including: pulse surveys of S4C staff, feedback gathered through the quarterly meetings of the Staff Forum (which is shared with the management team and the board), and annual meetings between [the trade union] BECTU and the board.

“We are striving to restore trust and confidence amongst our staff, who play a vital role in the future success of S4C. Leadership built on integrity, accountability, cooperation and open communication is key to building a positive future.
“The unitary board is committed to appointing a new permanent chief executive as soon as reasonably practical who can help restore an ambitious S4C with a renewed focus on collaboration and the well-being of our colleagues. They will be responsible and accountable to the board for delivering our strategy and laying the foundations for S4C’s continued success.

“We must ensure that S4C staff feel the utmost confidence that any concerns they may raise will be dealt with, and one of our priorities moving forward is ensuring a culture of open communication to that end.

“Working closely with the S4C Management Team, a programme will be implemented to ensure positive cultural change wherever needed within the organisation. We will review S4C’s purpose and values, with input from S4C staff at all levels of the organisation. We will also look at how we communicate our primary objectives to enable clearer communication of our strategy. This will ensure that staff feel ownership of the organisation’s values, understand our corporate strategy and their role in delivering it.

“A new internal communications plan will be developed to improve information flows, the relationship between various teams, and to bolster the voices of our colleagues across all levels of the organisation.

“We intend to implement a training programme for managers across the organisation which will focus on leadership, effective management, and managing change positively. All members of staff will receive external training focussed on building resilience and dealing with change. The management team will be accountable to the unitary board for delivering this programme for cultural change, and regular monitoring and feedback mechanisms and processes will be put in place to provide a better indication of staff morale and the programme’s success.

“The unitary board will also review the Code of Practice which applies to all board members to ensure it conforms to the highest standards and expectations, and aligns with S4C’s values.

“We are clear that a positive organisational culture and effective HR policies must go hand-in-hand. We are reviewing our HR policies – including on whistleblowing, grievances, and respect in the workplace – to ensure that they correspond to best practice.
“We want staff to feel comfortable to raise any concerns and confident that they will be dealt with appropriately. We will strive to re-establish trust between staff, managers and the HR department and will conduct an external review of HR functions and procedures, to ensure that they align with best practice. We will develop new policies where needed, including a suitable policy on how S4C is to respond to complaints against non-executive members of the Board.

“As part of our efforts to ensure that our governance arrangements conform with best practice, we will commission an external review of governance effectiveness. We expect this to consider internal governance arrangements – including the board and its committees, the management team, and other internal decision-making groups – and to particularly review whether there is appropriate accountability and communication between levels of internal governance.

“We expect the outcome of this review to lead to revisions to our Standing Orders and will also therefore take this opportunity to benchmark our Standing Orders, reviewing best practice at comparable organisations.

“Forthcoming legislation in the form of the Media Bill will also require amendments to our Standing Orders. While the S4C Authority has been operating as a Shadow Unitary Board on an administrative basis since 2018, we welcome the statutory certainty that the provisions of the Media Bill will provide with respect to S4C’s governance arrangements.”

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1 month ago

As part of the plan external experts will lead a review of the organisation’s values, there will be an external review of the effectiveness of S4C governance, managers will receive training on leadership and change management, and internal communications will also be strengthened….

Staggering that an organisation with 40 years back history has no internal expertise/competence to tackle these issues. What have they been doing?. Developing skills is a key element of performance improvement and succession planning.

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