Moving rugby off S4C ‘pricing Wales out of its own culture’ say Plaid Cymru
The decision to move Wales’ rugby matches off S4C and on to Amazon Prime has left the people of Wales “priced out of our own culture”, Plaid Cymru has said.
It’s been confirmed that fans of Welsh rugby will not be able to watch Wales’ autumn international matches on free-to-air television. Matches will only be televised live on Amazon Prime, which sits behind a paywall.
This marks a change from previous matches, which have been available to watch live on S4C, which is free-to-air. Amazon Prime will be providing commentary in both English and Welsh languages.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for sport, Heledd Fychan MS however said that it set a “dangerous precedent for the future of sports broadcasting in Welsh” and “also raises questions about the future of S4C”.
“Not only have S4C lost the right to broadcast Welsh rugby matches, but it puts in place a model that could be adopted by other broadcasters in the future,” she said.
“The red button offer from Amazon is a gesture at best. If you do not already pay for Amazon prime, you will still need to pay to watch in Welsh. And what about pubs and clubs that have always shown the games in Welsh?
“All games from our national teams should be free to watch on S4C. Welsh rugby belongs to everyone in Wales – we must not be priced out of our own culture.”
‘Risk to the language’
Their comments come after S4C’s Chief Executive said that the loss of the rights to Amazon was a “retrograde step”.
“Does S4C welcome this? No we bloody don’t, to be honest,” he told the Senedd’s culture committee on Wednesday.
“Certainly, we don’t, and for several reasons. Sport is important for S4C because sport brings a great deal of viewers into the channel. It’s an opportunity for us to cross-advertise the content of S4C for an audience that doesn’t often come into contact with that content.
“What Amazon has done is they’ve come in – and who blames them, they’re a private company – they’ve decided they are going to take on this. I think it’s a retrograde step for us in Wales.”
He went on to argue that Wales’ rugby matches should be considered one of those which legislation ensures is kept on a free-to-view channel.
“In future, Amazon might decide ‘well, we’re going to provide a programme in Welsh’,” he said. “What they’re trying to do, then, is to freeze us out of the traditional system that we have.
“That’s just a small example of what is likely to happen in the coming years, and where S4C would decide ‘well, we’ll have the rugby programme but we’ll have programmes around that and draw the audience in’, I don’t know whether Amazon is going to do that same thing.
“What I’m concerned about is there’s the Welsh offer, even though it’ll be a high-quality offer for the programme, it’ll just sit there and it will ensure they don’t share the audience. That’s what Amazon is really good at doing.
“In future, I think there is a risk to the language and a risk to channels such as S4C, but also for BBC and ITV, that are competing for these rights, that people come to where public service broadcasters traditionally are very strong and then will freeze us out of that space.
“Certainly, S4C isn’t welcoming what is happening. We’ve welcomed the fact that we’ve had some highlights of programmes. Certainly, we would much prefer to have had that live broadcast.”