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S4C ‘must have fair funding for Welsh language’ as it celebrates its 40th birthday

01 Nov 2022 4 minute read
S4C Headquarters in Carmarthen. Picture by Rhodri ap Dyfrig (CC BY-SA 4.0). Inset Pictures: S4C’s Welsh version of Gogglebox and hard-hitting S4C drama, Bex.

As Welsh language television channel S4C celebrates its 40th birthday today – established after the threat of a hunger strike by Plaid President Gwynfor Evans – the party has called for UK Government to give “fair funding for Welsh language broadcasting”.

In a letter to the new Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Secretary Michelle Donelan MP, Plaid Cymru’s DCMS spokesperson Ben Lake MP and Welsh language and culture spokesperson Heledd Fychan MS say that S4C has been “at the heart of Welsh cultural life” for four decades and continues to play a “central role as a key promoter of the Welsh language to new audiences”.

It is only by devolving broadcasting to Wales that we can “safeguard the long-term future of our treasured national institution and provide fair funding for Welsh language broadcasting more broadly,” they say.

As long as the UK Government holds power over Welsh broadcasting, however, it has a duty to provide a fair settlement, according to Mr Lake and Ms Fychan.

S4C was only established as a result of many years of protest. 

The Conservatives, having promised to deliver a Welsh language channel in their 1979 manifesto, reneged on that promise once they gained power. 

Hunger strike threat

It was only after the-then Plaid Cymru President, and the party’s first MP Gwynfor Evans, threatened to go on hunger strike that Margaret Thatcher was forced to deliver her initial promise. 

The channel started broadcasting on November 1, 1982.

Mr Lake and Ms Fychan wrote: “You embark on your role at a critical juncture for the world’s first and only Welsh-language television channel, S4C, which celebrates its 40th birthday today.

“For four decades, the channel has been at the heart of Welsh cultural life, giving a global platform to the language and giving hundreds of thousands of people access to news, entertainment, drama, and documentaries in Welsh. 

“Wales’ first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1958 will be broadcast live on the channel this month, further enhancing its central role as a key promoter of the Welsh language to new audiences.

“The recent freeze in the BBC licence fee and continued uncertainty over the BBC’s funding after 2027 is further evidence of why the devolution of broadcasting is the only way to safeguard the long-term future of our treasured national institution and provide fair funding for Welsh language broadcasting more broadly.

“However, soaring levels of inflation are already severely impacting on the ongoing budgets of broadcasters. To reflect these financial pressures and in recognition of the need to enhance and accelerate its digital offer, we urge you to commit to providing further resource to S4C, and a fairer settlement to public service broadcasters whose work also contributes to the shared goal of securing a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

“Your predecessor said S4C plays a unique critical role in promoting the Welsh language and in supporting a wider public service and broadcasting landscape. We trust that you will act to reflect her words.”

‘Congratulations to S4C’

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies praised S4C: “Congratulations to S4C on 40 years of broadcasting. The channel has educated and entertained generations of audiences and plays a crucial role in the creative industries in Wales. 

“As a government we continue to support S4C so it can create and broadcast the highest-quality content to audiences in Wales and across the world.”


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