S4C viewer complaints prompt authority concern

S4C headquarters in Cardiff
Image caption S4C is under pressure to maintain audiences with reduced funding

Viewer complaints about changes to the S4C schedule have prompted concern from members of the Welsh language channel's authority.

The quality of the nightly series Heno was one of the key points of discussion at the authority's monthly meeting.

S4C's public funding is being cut by a quarter from £102m to £75m by 2015.

Chairman Huw Jones said there was sympathy with programme producers trying to increase audience appeal on reduced budgets.

The new programme schedule was introduced on 1 March, the day that Ian Jones took over as S4C chief executive.

On taking up the post, he pledged to reach out to a "lost audience" of viewers who found the programming and style of Welsh used by the station too formal.

'Positive changes'

But following complaints about schedule changes and programme quality, the issues were raised at a meeting on Thursday.

"The authority sympathises with producers and staff as they face the challenge of increasing the appeal of the service while also working with a budget which has been significantly reduced," Huw Jones said.

"But we have a fundamental obligation to ensure that our viewers' opinions - especially when they are as clear and consistent as they have been in the last few days - are heard and have an influence on what is seen on screen.

"We must protect the standard of the service.

"The chief executive has pledged to place the audience at the heart of the service and we welcome the positive steps he is taking in partnership with the production company Tinopolis, to ensure that Heno is a programme that will successfully contribute to S4C's objectives and the viewers' enjoyment."

The authority said it expected to see "positive changes" to the programme in the short term.

Another report regarding other aspects of the new schedule would be presented to its meeting in April.

Ron Jones, chief executive of Tinopolis, declined to comment on reported criticism by him of S4C's programme strategy in the Welsh language magazine Golwg.

The Welsh language channel is having to come to terms with a cut in public funding from £102m in 2011 to £75m in 2015, which will come in future from the BBC licence fee.

In November Wales's heritage minister Huw Lewis warned AMs that S4C viewers would see the effects of the budget cuts on their TV screens.

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