Spending review: S4C may rely on BBC money - Arwel Ellis Owen

S4C headquarters in Cardiff There are "huge concerns" at S4C over the broadcaster's future

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A former S4C chief executive says there is a "grave danger" the Welsh language TV channel could become entirely reliant on the BBC licence fee.

Arwel Ellis Owen believes the UK government, in its spending review on Wednesday, could announce an end to its £6.7m funding from 2015.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said it will not comment on "speculation".

Plaid Cymru's Bethan Jenkins will table an urgent question in the assembly.

S4C Authority chair Huw Jones has already said it has "huge concerns".

Start Quote

There is a grave danger that the government will take £6.7m away from S4C's budget ”

End Quote Arwel Ellis Owen Former chief executive, S4C

The TV channel received £6.7m from DCMS in 2013, down from £101m in 2010.

The BBC will contribute £76.3m from the licence fee in 2013-14, falling to £74.5m by 2016/17.

Mr Owen said: "I believe there is a grave danger that the government will take £6.7m away from S4C's budget on Wednesday, which will break the chain between money from the government and S4C, which will leave S4C completely reliant on the licence fee from 2015."

Earlier this year it was claimed that the independence of the broadcaster was safeguarded in an agreement outlining its relationship with the BBC.

The new partnership was agreed following public consultation over plans to fund most of S4C's activities from the BBC licence fee from April.

It meant that S4C will remain independent, also receiving UK government funding and generating its own revenue.

At the time the S4C Authority called it a "historic development for Welsh broadcasting".

'At the mercy'

But Mr Owen told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme that that being "at the mercy of" [the BBC] was "a very relevant issue in this whole debate".

He added: "So that is why it's important, not only for the financial reasons, for S4C to have a continued funding from an alternative source, but also in terms of its independence it's very important as well".

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins told the BBC's Sunday Politics that she was very concerned and would table a question to First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Last week, Huw Jones, chairman of the S4C Authority, said DCMS had already confirmed an 8% cut in its budget with the Treasury.

He said a meeting between him and UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller was recently cancelled and no other meeting had been arranged.

"This combination of circumstances and events causes huge concern to S4C about the government's intentions," he said.

The Welsh TV producers' trade body TAC has sent an open letter to Ms Miller calling for a halt to cuts to S4C funding.

Its open letter read: "If every £1 you invest in S4C generates nearly £2 for the Welsh economy, it follows therefore that conversely, for every £1 of S4C's budget that is cut, the Welsh economy will lose double this amount."

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