Save Sali Mali: MP voices concern about the future of Welsh language children’s shows after funding scrapped
An MP has expressed concern about the future of Welsh language children’s programming after ministers scrapped a £44m fund designed to support the kids TV sector.
The Young Audiences Content Fund had been intended to help UK broadcasters compete with children’s output available on YouTube and cartoons on US streaming services such as Netflix.
But 5% of the fund was set aside for Welsh and Gaelic programming and Ceredigion MP Ben Lake raised concerns that its loss would be a blow to Welsh language children’s programming.
In 2020 the fund gave S4C the green light for over fifteen hours of content for children and young people, including Sali Mali and Welsh historical factual series ‘Hei Hanes!’ (Hey History!).
Speaking in the House of Commons, Ben Lake asked what assessment he has made of the potential impact of closing the young audiences content fund on Welsh language broadcasting.
“The fund’s 5% target for content in the indigenous languages has been invaluable to producers of Welsh language children’s programmes such as an upcoming drama series about children’s mental health and, of course, the production of new episodes of ‘Sali Mali’,” he said.
“Mike Young, the producer of ‘Sam Tan’ and the creator of ‘SuperTed’, has previously stated that those much-loved favourites would not have been made without state support.
“Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss the impact of the fund’s closure and ways we can secure the future of original children’s content in the Welsh language?”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, David T.C. Davies, responded that there would be a full evaluation of the fund’s impact on the provision of public service broadcasting for young people, including Welsh language content.
“I would be delighted to meet the honourable Gentleman to discuss that issue. I would approach it with an open mind,” he said.
“I will perhaps remind the honourable Gentleman that it was a Conservative Government who established S4C. It was also a Conservative Government who introduced the Welsh Language Act 1993.
“He may also know that it was a Conservative Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee who allowed Welsh to be spoken for the first time in Select Committee hearings. Modesty prevents me from saying any more on that, but I can assure him that we will always want to support the Welsh language.”
He added that S4C will receive £88.8 million a year for the first two years of the licence fee settlement, rising in line with inflation thereafter.
Last month Anna Home, chair of the Children’s Media Foundation campaign group, called on the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, to reverse the decision to cut the fund.
“Now we face a definite decrease in the number and range of programmes being made for young people in the UK … and in fact it’s worse as the BBC is facing government-imposed budget cuts of its own over the next few years too,” she said.
A government spokesperson said the scheme would end in March and would then be evaluated: “We are undertaking a wider review of public service broadcasting to ensure it remains relevant and can continue to meet the needs of UK audiences.”
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