S4C 'cycle of decline' funding fear - IWA
- 11 November 2015
- From the section Wales
S4C risks entering a "cycle of decline" unless its funding is sustained, the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) has warned.
The think tank has also called for the Welsh language TV channel's independence to be safeguarded and for BBC Wales' budget to rise by £30m.
The IWA's Audit of Welsh Media has been published ahead of a sell-out summit in Cardiff on Wednesday.
Issues affecting the print, broadcast and online industries will be debated.
The IWA also recommends that:
- A media advisory panel to monitor industry trends should be set up by the Welsh government
- S4C and BBC Wales should maximise their collaboration, while maintaining distinctive services
- BBC2 Wales and S4C should broadcast in high definition (HD)
- Radio 1 and Radio 2 in Wales should carry Welsh news programming
- The BBC should create a separate iPlayer service for Wales
- Responsibility for broadcasting should be shared between the UK and Welsh governments
- A fund to pay for "innovative" online news services should be established by the Welsh government
The audit found that spending on TV programming for Wales has been in decline since before the 2008 banking crisis, while BBC Wales' English language television service has seen a 27% reduction in hours of programmes since 2006/07.
"Tough" licence fee settlements imposed by the UK government in 2010 and 2015 "threaten" both BBC Wales and S4C, said the audit.
Since 2013, S4C has received the vast majority of its funding from the licence fee, with the remainder coming from the UK government.
The channel claims it has suffered a real terms cut of 36% in funding since 2010.
The IWA has found that Welsh newspaper circulations had "dropped sharply" since its last media audit in 2008, in line with global trends.
However, the decline had been "more than matched by the growth in usage of newspaper online sites".
Hywel Wiliam, from the IWA's media policy group, said: "It's important to be positive as well.
"The audit compared to 2008 shows an enormous growth in the availability of communication services: in fixed broadband - that's superfast broadband becoming ubiquitous, the fourth platform perhaps for content delivery - also great improvements in mobile connectivity and digital radio.
"But the problem is funding content for Wales specifically and also securing the visibility of Welsh content in this huge digital sea, which we can't hold back.
"We need to work on mechanisms to ensure that content for Wales remains prominent and visible in the new digital world."
A Welsh government spokesperson said it did not believe the time was right for a media advisory panel because it was still awaiting the outcomes of the BBC Charter review, "our ongoing engagement with the UK government about S4C" and consideration of the recommendations of the Silk and Smith Commissions on further devolution.
Those taking part in the summit include Culture Minister Ken Skates AM and James Purnell, the BBC's director of strategy.