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First S4C chief, ex-BBC Wales head Owen Edwards dies


Tributes have been paid to the first chief executive of the Welsh language channel S4C, Owen Edwards, who has died at the age of 76.

Mr Edwards led S4C from its pre-launch phase in 1981 to 1989 and was also controller of BBC Wales.

Menna Richards, the director of BBC Wales, called his work "extraordinary".

S4C chair John Walter Jones said he was a "colossus of Welsh language broadcasting" and one of the nation's "great figures".

Mr Jones added: "He made an invaluable contribution to the survival of our culture and our identity as a country.

"As the first director of S4C, he continued his family's unique tradition of ensuring that our culture remains dynamic in the modern era.

"He built on what his father and grandfather accomplished in the field of education and with young people by ensuring that our language and culture flourish in the media.

"He managed to establish a Welsh language television service that was admired throughout the world," he said.

Menna Richards said his contribution to the development of the media in Wales was "unsurpassed".

Ms Richards added: "S4C, BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru were all launched under his visionary leadership.

"Owen had that rare knack of getting the very best from all those who worked with with him.

"He was a man who truly loved Wales, and his legacy to our nation's public life is rich and enduring," she said.

In 2008, Mr Edwards, who lived in Cardiff, was honoured with a special award for his contribution to the media.

Programme organiser

His career began in the 1950s as a presenter on the Welsh programme Dewch i Mewn, produced by ITV company Granada.

From 1961 to 1966 he presented Heddiw, then the BBC's daily news programme in Welsh, and was one of the journalists to report the Aberfan disaster in October 1966.

Later, he influenced the development of the Welsh language media from behind the scenes, first as programme organiser and then as head of programmes at the BBC.

He was appointed controller of BBC Wales in 1974 and under his leadership Radio Cymru and Radio Wales were launched.

Mr Edwards was in charge at S4C from 1981 until his retirement in 1989.

image captionMr Edwards reported in Welsh on Aberfan, when 144 people died after coal waste engulfed the village

He was the son of Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards, founder of the Urdd Eisteddfod, and the grandson of the historian, author and publisher OM Edwards

He was presented with the Cyfrwng award at the National Library in Aberystwyth in May 2008 by Alwyn Roberts, former chair of the BBC's Broadcasting Council for Wales and one of the first three members of the S4C Authority.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones described Mr Edwards as a "cultural innovator," who made a "very rich contribution" to broadcasting in Wales.

"His work as the first director of S4C after it was established was extremely important - steering the channel very cleverly through those early years," said Mr Jones.

"As well as being a very successful figure in broadcasting, he was also a very kind and compassionate man."

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "Owen was a passionate Welshman whose significant contribution to Welsh broadcasting and culture will never be forgotten".

Fellow broadcaster R Alun Evans remembered Mr Edwards's "rapport" with the Welsh language audience.

He paid tribute to Mr Edwards's reporting of the Aberfan disaster.

"The whole world of press and broadcasting came to Aberfan because of that disaster but the one shining star in the middle of it was Owen.

"He gave Welsh language broadcasting that air of significance. That we could cope, that we could say the right things."

He added: "Owen was a true Welshman of the valleys, of the countryside. He could put himself in a situation and say the right thing at the right time."

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