TV channel S4C needs more money for digital, say AMs

Canolfan yr Egin - artist's impression Image copyright UWTSD
Image caption S4C's new headquarters in Carmarthen are due to open in 2018

Welsh language broadcaster S4C needs more money and a revised remit to help it deliver more digital content, according to a committee of AMs.

A report by the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee calls for long-term security of funding for the channel.

It also said its budget should be increased to ensure S4C can reach Welsh speakers who do not watch it on TV.

The channel currently receives £74.5m from the BBC licence fee every year.

It also receives £6.8m from the UK government but the channel recently said it would need an extra £6m to enable its content to appear on all new platforms.

The committee published its report ahead of a UK government review of the channel later this year.

BBC Wales understands former S4C executive Euryn Ogwen Williams has been asked to chair the review.

The report criticised the UK government for "benign neglect" of the channel because it last reviewed S4C in 2004.

Image copyright S4C

Committee chairwoman, Bethan Jenkins AM, said: "Currently, legislation on S4C is focused on its role providing television broadcasting; but we know that modern audiences consume content on their phones and stream programmes on-demand.

"Since 2011, S4C's budget has fallen by £20m - that's without taking inflation into account. If S4C is going to survive and thrive to promote Welsh language and culture, it must be able to compete for audiences online without being restricted by an outdated remit and a shrinking budget."

The committee recommends redefining S4C's remit from being a TV channel that serves audiences in Wales to being a content provider that is required to promote and foster the Welsh language.

It also calls for the current governance system, which is led by the S4C Authority, to be replaced by a unitary board comprising senior managers and non-executive directors - a model recently adopted by the BBC.

Many of the recommendations mirror those made by S4C in its document, Pushing the Boundaries, published in April 2017, which set out its vision for the next 10 years.

S4C chairman Huw Jones said: "We're grateful to the committee for their detailed interest in the services S4C should provide in the future and the manner in which it is financed.

"The report will certainly be an important and valuable contribution to the discussion regarding these matters which will happen in the wake of the independent review of S4C."

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