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Here's one we prepared earlier.

Betsan Powys | 06:00 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The M6 and M5 are long, if not exactly winding roads and when you read this, I won't very long have waved goodbye to them.That's why this blog entry looks as it does: a checklist of documents, prepared by a colleague, of the key communication between S4C and the DCMS when the controversial £2m cut to S4C's budget was being decided.

The documents have been released after a Freedom of Information bid by Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas - and they speak for themselves.

They show that when we, as journalists, spoke at the time of the cut having been "volunteered - yes, volunteered in inverted commas" - we hadn't realised the significance of those inverted commas, nor the extent to which they were merited.

Why?

Because while the DCMS insist the reduction in S4C's budget was volunteered, S4C insist it was not.
Because the cut may turn out to be unlawful.
Because S4C's Chief Executive, Iona Jones, was ousted from her position a matter of weeks after these documents were written.

Here they are in summary. Only names not obscured and therefore already made public are quoted here.

May 19 - Conversation between Jeremy Hunt and John Walter Jones, Chair S4C Authority. According to the DCMS notes, Secretary of State asks "in a spirit of cooperation" whether S4C would consider making a contribution to the in year cuts in line with other bodies. JWJ says wants to be helpful, will consult the Authority but would only come back with a proposition once DCMS officials had confirmed how money could flow back into the department given S4C's independent status. SoS agrees that DCMS officials will come back to S4C as a matter of urgency on the mechanics of how money could be moved back.

May 20 - an IN CONFIDENCE email from Jon Zeff (senior official in DCMS) to Iona Jones, Chief executive of S4C. Refers to discussions between the two and says DCMS lawyers say best way of returning money is on a "mutually agreed basis" although happy to discuss other options (unspecified). Also refers to timescale and amount.

May 21 - S4C receives legal advice from Clive Lewis QC that any reductions are unlawful (this is the advice released by Peter Hain last week, not part of the FOI).

May 21 - letter sent by email at unspecified time from John Walter Jones to Jeremy Hunt (but sent to Jon Zeff not the SoS). Letter makes it crystal clear based on the legal advice that S4C have received that "we cannot accede to your request" for a £2m reduction.

May 21 - email timed at 19.55 from Jon Zeff to John Walter Jones cc Iona Jones which says "This message is to confirm the outcome of my discussions with Iona, which is that the DCMS should withhold £2m from S4C's total grant over the course of this year, subject to a formal exchange of letters to be agreed next week".

May 21 - email reply timed at 20.05 from John Walter Jones to Jon Zeff cc Iona Jones which simply says "Thank you for your email, we will pick up with you again at the beginning of next week"

May 24 - email from Jeremy Hunt to JWJ (cc list redacted) which says, "I understand that following our conversation last week you have agreed to a £2m saving from S4C's grant this year, as a contribution to meeting the challenge of these exceptional circumstances. I am very grateful to the Authority for volunteering this: I know it will not have been an easy decision." He adds that his officials will be in touch about the detailed arrangements for reflecting the £2m saving in S4C's grant payments for this year.

May 24 - DCMS and S4C confirm to BBC Wales the £2m cut in response to inquiries. DCMS statement says cut was "agreed" whereas S4C's merely confirms the reduction.

May 25 - Short one-sentence letter from JWJ to Jeremy Hunt which says that further to the letter of May 24, "I have to make it clear beyond peradventure that in discussions between S4C and DCMS on this matter, it was clearly understood that DCMS decided to assume the risk of withholding £2m from S4C's grant in aid for the financial year, and this was not volunteered by S4C."

June 8 - Jeremy Hunt says in a written Parliamentary answer to Jonathan Edwards MP that the £2m cut was "mutually agreed" between DCMS and S4C.

Both the DCMS and S4C have made short further statements the DCMS reiterating that the reduction had been agreed with S4C.

S4C reiterate their contradictory position: "S4C has previously stated that the £2m cut to its grant in aid was not volunteered. S4C has not made a repayment to DCMS. The duties and responsibilities of the S4C Authority are placed upon it by statute and these duties place strict requirements upon the Authority to safeguard its public funding. We have no further comment".

Not exactly high definition yet perhaps but are things getting any less fuzzy?


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