S4C braced for funding decision as Nadine Dorries signs off on licence fee settlement
S4C is likely to find out whether it will face a real-term reduction in its funding this month as UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries signs off on a new licence fee settlement.
In its last financial year, 2020-21, S4C received £74.5m from the BBC licence fee and £21.85m from the UK Government.
However, UK Government sources have already briefed that the £159 television licence will be held below inflation, leading to another real-terms cut in spending for the BBC.
Sources in the Times suggested that the licence fee could be frozen for up to two years as part of the agreement, before rising again towards the end of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2027.
They were keen to ensure that the settlement takes account of the “fiscal pressures currently being felt across the nation and by individual households” they said.
If there is no increase in the license fee, S4C’s share of that money is unlikely to rise also, leaving it facing possible cutbacks if inflation rises 5% as the Bank of England expects.
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.
Last month, a Senedd report called for the Welsh Government to have a bigger say when the futures of the BBC and S4C in Wales are discussed by the UK Government.
The Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee said that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport within the UK Government should include a representative from the Welsh Government when discussing the future of public service broadcasting in Wales.
The report says that the rules that govern the media need to change to ensure audiences in Wales “can watch content that reflects and informs their lives”.
Particular regard should be given to the need for intervention to ensure programming in the Welsh language, and content reflecting Wales in both languages, is safeguarded, they said.
“The negotiations on the funding settlement for Wales are an essential step to guarantee PSBs can continue to serve Welsh audiences by covering our shared cultural events and providing trusted news,” the report says.
“The Committee is calling for a seat at the table for a Welsh representative in the negotiations on the next licence fee settlement from 2022-2027. The role of this representative should also be included as standard for the next round of negotiations.”
The report also adds: “The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Public Service Broadcasting Advisory Panel should include representatives from the devolved administrations in their discussions on policy and legislative solutions to the challenges facing PSBs in the digital age.
“Particular regard should be given to the need for intervention to ensure programming in the Welsh language, and content reflecting Wales in both languages, is safeguarded.”
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