Wales

Calls for one body to oversee both BBC and S4C

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Media captionSteve Hewlett gave the third annual Patrick Hannan Lecture broadcast

Writer and broadcaster Steve Hewlett has called for "a beefed up Welsh authority" to oversee the services offered by BBC Wales and S4C.

He said the authority could have power on funding decisions for English and Welsh output but would be "ultimately accountable to the BBC Trust".

He made the comments at the third annual Patrick Hannan Lecture broadcast on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday night.

Most of S4C's funding is from the BBC licence fee but it remains independent.

An agreement between the UK government, S4C and the BBC Trust in 2010 led to the Welsh language broadcaster receiving around 90% of its funding from the licence fee.

It had previously been almost entirely funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

During the speech, Hewlett said that there was a "huge opportunity" following the last BBC funding settlement which put in place arrangements for S4C and the S4C Authority to run independently but be accountable to the BBC Trust.

"Could the S4C licence fee deal be the blueprint for a federal BBC?" he asked.

He said the S4C principle of having licence fee funding and independence under the BBC Trust could be applied across the "whole Welsh operation" with one authority overseeing services in both languages, having funding decisions and promoting on air plurality.

Hewlett called on both broadcasters to work more closely together and said a "huge and historic opportunity" might be missed if a "mutual distrust" between the two broadcasters was allowed to continue.

Focusing on the relationship between the two broadcasters, Mr Hewlett said they could either "stand together to become partners in what could be the vital beating cultural heart of the nation," or "hang separately".

In his lecture, the presenter of Radio 4's Media Show, also discussed the challenge of newspapers' falling circulations, and the impact the internet was having on TV viewing habits.

Opportunity knocks

The outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence was also an opportunity for broadcasting in the UK, he argued, regardless of its outcome.

"If Scotland leaves the union then the opportunity will open up for Wales to become more independent within," he added.

"If Scotland votes to stay and so-called 'devo max' kicks in, then I reckon the same thing will happen. Either way, opportunity will knock for Wales."

Mr Hewlett also said the phone hacking scandal would lead to a more independent press regulator, but newspapers were also facing the "digital dissolution" of their historic business models as readers turn to the internet and their circulations and advertising revenues fall.

But he argued the internet was having a more positive effect on TV viewing habits, with the ability to discuss programmes on social media prompting more people to watch television live, rather than catch up later and miss out on the online conversation.

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