S4C bullying report to be scrutinised at the Senedd
The Senedd’s Culture Committee has called S4C board members to a public hearing following the publication of an inquiry report into disturbing bullying allegations that led to the dismissal of the broadcaster’s chief executive Sian Doyle.
The committee meeting will take place at the Senedd on Thursday December 14 from 9.15am and will be broadcast live on Senedd TV.
Appearing for S4C will be the broadcaster’s Chair Rhodri Williams and another representative of the unitary board.
Two days before, at 9am on Tuesday December 12, the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee will also hold a scrutiny session. S4C will be represented by Mr Williams and the lead non-executive member of the broadcaster’s unitary board Chris Jones.
A calling notice for the hearing states: “The Chair of S4C, Rhodri Williams, will be appearing before the Welsh Affairs Committee in an accountability hearing to examine the organisation’s governance arrangements and the operation of its unitary board.”
Delyth Jewell MS, who chairs the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee, said: “The continued allegations in the media related to S4C are deeply worrying. With rumours and speculation circulating, the committee is keen for these questions to be answered in public. We are inviting the Chair and a member of S4C’s board to give evidence next week to bring clarity for the people of Wales.
“To restore public trust in the broadcaster it is essential that they are open and transparent in this process. To this end, we welcome the publication of the report today and will consider its contents ahead of speaking to S4C next week.
“We know how important the success of S4C is for the Welsh language and Wales as a country and we will be doing all we can to get answers from the channel’s leadership over the coming weeks.”
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on culture Heledd Fychan MS said the people of Wales “deserve reassurance” that the channel takes its unique role as a public broadcaster “seriously”.
Ms Fychan said: “This report is shocking and needs to be a turning point for the channel. I would like to commend the S4C staff who spoke out against bad behaviour under extremely difficult circumstances.
“S4C is a national organisation that is an integral part of our Welsh culture and creative economy, and we deserve reassurance that the channel takes its unique role as a public broadcaster seriously.
“We look forward to engaging with S4C during parliamentary scrutiny in the Senedd and in Westminster to seek assurance that the appropriate steps are being taken to restore confidence in our channel.”
A statement issued by Teledwyr Annibynnol Cymru (TAC), the trade association for TV production companies in Wales, said: “TAC notes that the report on alleged bullying incidents at S4C has now been published and we hope that this marks the point where S4C can once again move forward to focussing only on delivering high-quality content to Welsh-speaking audiences and beyond, working closely with our sector.
“We would like to recognise the efforts of the current staff of S4C who we know have done their best in trying circumstances to keep the service on track and deal with our sector, despite losing some people in key positions in recent months.
“Production companies across Wales, large and small, are keen as always to engage with S4C and deliver the best ideas, stories and talent to audiences. As a trade body TAC has not received any significant fundamental complaints about S4C’s commissioning strategy or approach and we look forward to working together to ensure the sector and S4C are strong and sustainable, as we face future challenges.”
Gwyn Williams, a recent former director of corporate communications at S4C, said: “Publishing this report now gives people the opportunity to see what staff, and former S4C staff, have had to endure over the past 18 months, even though the report itself notes that the need for confidentially has meant that much evidence has been distilled and paraphrased.
“After six months of painful investigation, it is now time for the channel to start rebuilding faith and trust; amongst staff, the production sector, partners, stakeholders, and viewers. To start with the Chair and Board must consider what they could have done to avoid such a mess, how they could have dealt with the situation quicker, and how they will avoid such a chaos arising again.”
The S4C Authority issued a statement that said: “Today, the S4C Authority publishes the report from [Cardiff law firm] Capital Law into the fact-finding exercise undertaken into the working environment at S4C, instigated following serious concerns raised with us by [the trade union] BECTU in April 2023. The evidence gathered reflects the views and experiences of more than 90 individuals who are current or former members of staff at S4C or are partners with whom the organisation works.
“The report paints a picture of a very difficult working environment for many at S4C. Participants described an unsettling workplace, with some individual members of the senior management team behaving in an inappropriate way and with an approach that directly impacted the well-being of staff.
“As members of the S4C Authority, we would like to say sorry to those who have had to tolerate unacceptable behaviours in the workplace and for the upset that this has caused. We would like to thank you for your openness and honesty in sharing your experiences, enabling the failings highlighted in today’s report to be identified”, it added.
“Participants recognised that change is needed at S4C and that the senior management team were intent on delivering an ambitious vision for the channel’s future. It appears, however, that the way this was shared by some with staff and the approach to managing change across the organisation was insensitive. This often led to conflict and insecurity rather than creativity and a positive, inclusive transformation. It is clear that many S4C staff have been unhappy at work and that our organisation did not seem to have appropriate working practices in place to be able to deal openly and appropriately with staff concerns.
“We value the input of BECTU on behalf of staff members, who asked us to take action once it was clear that adequate progress had not been achieved directly with the senior management. We look forward to ongoing discussions with colleagues about the support needed within the workplace.
“The S4C Authority is committed to ensuring that S4C is a place where our colleagues are happy and safe – a place where they feel able to perform at their best and thrive. We recognise that significant work is required to put in place new ways of working that will allow S4C to build a positive future with a supported and creative workforce. To do that, we need to restore confidence and trust amongst our staff, who have such a crucial role to play in the future success of the organisation. Integral to that success is leadership focussed on collaboration and communication. As an Authority, we decided that this would require new leadership at S4C, and we will shortly make further announcements about that process.
“There is considerable work to do to fully address all of the issues raised by the evidence received. We will work with colleagues, including the Management and Transformation Teams and the recently-established Staff Forum, to encourage an open discussion and sharing of ideas on better ways of working.
“The interim leadership team has already made positive changes to enable better and more open communication within the organisation and we are thankful to them for their work at this time. They will continue to ensure that we have support for staff in place in the coming weeks.
“We have been sensitive to a potential conflict of interest for the Chairman. These issues were reviewed by Members of the Authority, independently of the Chairman, and have been dealt with accordingly. It was agreed that they did not merit any further action and would not prevent the Chairman from participating in the ongoing review. All decisions arising from this process have been unanimous.
“We have striven to put the well-being of S4C’s staff at the heart of our decisions throughout this process. It has been a complex and difficult matter to navigate with difficult decisions based on complex legal issues. Care has been taken to limit public statements that could lead to further conflict, and we will need to continue to carefully consider what information can be shared to respond to further questions. We will, of course, provide as much information as possible about the process as part of the ongoing scrutiny of the S4C Authority. We have shared this report with the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Welsh Government and look forward to parliamentary scrutiny in due course.
“In the meantime, we would like to thank our colleagues and partners for their ongoing support for S4C. We look forward to continuing to play a vital role in commissioning innovative content, promoting the Welsh language and culture and growing audiences for made-in-Wales content.”
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