S4C should suggest alternatives to the licence fee funding says UK Culture Secretary
The UK Government’s Culture Secretary has called on S4C to contribute to the debate on how it could be funded if the licence fee comes to an end in 2027.
Nadine Dorries said in the House of Commons on Monday that the UK Government’s intention was that the licence fee be done away with in five years’ time.
In a letter to S4C she said that, as their funding was dependent on the licence fee, they would need to contribute to the debate about what came next.
The letter to S4C Chair Rodri Williams and CEO Siân Doyle says: “It is clear to me that rapidly evolving distribution technologies and changing consumer behaviour means that the current Licence Fee funding model is facing challenges to its sustainability and appropriateness.
“This is something we will need formally to start to consider in the near future, and I hope S4C is ready to contribute to that consideration given the potential implications for your own funding arrangements.”
S4C’s funding from April will be solely financed from the BBC licence fee, but it was announced this week that a further £7.5m would be available to pay for extra online services.
“I also recognise the impact from the rise of streaming and Video on Demand services; while this is not a challenge exclusive to S4C, it does have a specific impact on the viewing habits of those younger and multilingual audiences who are vital for ensuring the future of the Welsh language,” Nadine Dorries said.
As a result, she stated her intention “to award S4C a further £7.5 million per annum from the Licence Fee to support its digital development, which is now necessary for the continuation of the service in the modern media landscape”.
On Monday a prominent academic warned that the announcement that the licence fee will be frozen for the next few years and potentially scrapped in 2027 is an “existential threat” to the Welsh language.
Prof. Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance, warned that the announcement was a threat to the futures of both S4C and Radio Cymru, which depended on the survival of public service broadcasting.
He said that even if S4C received more funding in the short term its long term future was not guaranteed, and the licence fee freeze would also impact Radio Cymru.
“The Johnson government’s attack on the very principle of broadcasting – if nothing changes, the BBC as we have known it will cease to exist after 2027 – means that there’s no long term future for S4C,” he said.
“After all, can you really imagine a situation in which S4C is the only surviving public broadcaster in the UK that is directly funded by the Treasury in London? If so then, dear God, I’ve got a bridge to sell you…
“To conclude, the future of Radio Cymru is as important S4C’s. S4C is dependent on the health of the BBC but – more fundamentally – on the survival of the principle of public broadcasting.
“Dorries’ announcement is an existential threat to the future of the Welsh language.”
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