S4C: high definition service on satellite television by 2016?

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In the session in the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee on 27 March 2014 on the future outlook for the media in Wales, S4C chief executive Ian Jones said he hopes the channel could launch a high definition service on satellite television by 2016.

S4C's previous HD channel - S4C Clirlun, which was broadcast on Freesat - was scrapped in 2012 as part of an efficiency drive, saving £1.5m a year.

Ian Jones and S4C chairman Huw Jones also emphasised the need for financial security as well as editorial and operational independence during this morning's session.

Peter Black AM asked about the recommendation in the Silk Commission's report that responsibility for S4C including the relevant funding should be transferred from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to the Welsh Government.

Huw Jones replied that it is "a matter for policy makers to decide where accountability should lie". He said the key question is "how does one secure sufficient funding to allow S4C to provide the high quality service that Welsh speakers and the people of Wales in general deserve".

Asked by Rhodri Glyn Thomas whether S4C have any concerns about the relationship with the BBC, Huw Jones replied that the "fundamental concern is that the agreement with the BBC comes to an end in 2017, so it is crucially important that there should be a clear understanding as to what is to happen post 2017".

Mr Thomas asked whether "the relationship that is developing between the BBC and S4C in Wales means that the debate about devolving responsibility for S4C becomes irrelevant, because the only debate that we can have now is about devolving broadcasting as a whole to Wales? It would be a very strange situation given this new relationship if the Welsh Government had direct responsibility for S4C and that the responsibility for the BBC remained in Westminster".

Huw Jones replied that the "common sense point that needs to be made on that is that the ability of the government in Westminster to create a situation where the funding of S4C through the licence fee is sufficient is perhaps stronger than the ability currently held by the Welsh Government to ensure that.

"That is one of the reasons that we are eager for the discussion on the future funding of S4C and the funding provided through the licence fee should be seen in more general terms in a debate on the charter renewal of the BBC "

The committee also heard that the ITV Cymru Wales move to headquarters in Cardiff Bay on a site next to the National Assembly "is linked to the success of the wider company" which head of news and programmes Phil Henfrey described as profitable, resilient and strong.

The broadcaster aims to relocate around 100 staff from Culverhouse Cross to Assembly Square later this year, which Mr Henfrey said involved a "massive investment in technology".

Later in the committee, the man who wrote a report calling for the number of councils in Wales to be halved told AMs that the timescale is still possible, despite there being no agreement yet between the parties at the Assembly.

Paul Williams says it could take three to five years but the change needs to be managed properly.

He told the committee that things are starting to move but only time would tell whether it would happen.

Darllenwch hwn yn Gymraeg

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