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Mayday, mayday

Betsan Powys | 16:26 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

You may well argue there've been too many installments to the recent mini-series called "S4C - Unhappy Days" but here is the latest.

Last night a meeting of the authority was held during which the Chair, John Walter Jones, made it clear that his understanding with the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, was that he would stand down as chair when he's 65, at the end of March. I had a brief word with Mr Jones this afternoon and he was happy to confirm that this is the case.

But other sources - no name, no pack drill - suggest that after a particularly stormy exchange, Mr Jones, who was taking part via video link, announced he would resign immediately and left to inform the Department of Culture, Media and Sport of his decision.

He later rejoined the meeting and informed the Authority that he'd reversed his decision. He plans, then, on staying in the Chair until the spring.

This morning Welsh Conservative MPs were out in force calling for the authority to stand down, with the exception of the chairman. Guto Bebb was their spokesman:

"Some members of the S4C Authority are more concerned with scoring political points against the coalition government than trying to move S4C forward to a secure future.

"We've come to the conclusion as a group of MPs especially after yesterday's evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that the S4C authority are part of the problem rather than part of the solution."

So what's actually going here - what's the Kremlinology? It's all around the current negotiations with the BBC and the DCMS about how the two broadcasters will work together much more closely in the future.

There's clearly a split between the chair and the authority - but there's equally clearly a split within the authority between the pragmatists who want to make the best of the situation, and those who want to take a more gung ho approach to negotiations.

Things are coming to a head. The DCMS has clearly lost patience with the authority. The authority (or at least some strong factions within the authority), in turn, are agitating for the chair to step aside.

This is dangerous territory for an organisation already without a permanent chief executive.

All of which tells us what?

That this is an organisation in complete turmoil at a time when it needs to be united.

It should certainly tell anyone who has applied to be the channel's new Chief Executive (closing date Friday) that they might as well leave the application form in the drawer.

How can you appoint anyone to run a ship when you've left the navigator in the port, the captain is threatening to chuck himself off the side and the oarsmen are all rowing in different directions?

Stormy waters indeed.

UPDATE 17.45

The S4C Authority met again this afternoon. The Chair, John Walter Jones, wasn't there and one of the members, Rheon Tomos, was appointed as temporary deputy chair.

The suggestion coming from the S4C authority is that John Walter Jones didn't, in fact, tell them that he'd rescinded his resignation last night. Whether he remains in that chair or not is, incidentally, a matter for Mr Jones and the DCMS ... and Mr Jones is on the record tonight as saying that his understanding with Jeremy Hunt is that he will remain in post until March 2011.


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