Wales politics

BBC cuts put S4C at risk, Labour's Chris Bryant claims

Mali Harries in Hinterland/Y Gwyll
Image caption Crime drama Hinterland/Y Gwyll was made in English and Welsh for the BBC and for S4C

Cuts to the BBC threaten the future of S4C, Labour's shadow culture secretary has told the House of Commons.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant called for reassurances over the Welsh-language channel as the UK government announced a full-scale review of the BBC.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale restated his view that S4C should aim for similar savings to the BBC.

S4C said it had faced "substantial cuts" but would stress to ministers the "uniqueness" and value of its service.

The channel receives the bulk of its money - £75m - from the BBC licence fee, with £7m from the UK government plus some commercial income.

'Shrinkage' fear

Launching a Green Paper and public consultation on the future of the BBC on Thursday, Mr Whittingdale told MPs S4C was one of the services whose funding had been protected during the previous BBC charter period.

Referring to his statement on the licence fee deal earlier in July, the minister added that "S4C will be expected to find similar savings to those in the BBC".

Image caption Chris Bryant claims nobody in Wales believes S4C's funding has been protected

However, Mr Bryant called for a guarantee of the Welsh channel's future, urging Mr Whittingdale to consult the Welsh government and the Welsh people.

"The secretary of state says that the funding of S4C was protected in the last charter period - that is not the view of anybody in Wales," he said.

"It was not. It's actually been cut by a third since 2010 and he's just suggested that the further 20% cut to the BBC would bring in a similar shrinkage to S4C.

"It's barely mentioned in the Green Paper at all, so I presume that he's not really looking at this with any seriousness."

In response to similar calls from Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, Mr Whittingdale said there was a commitment to S4C "within the next couple of years" and he hoped to have discussions with its management in the near future.

'Value and importance'

S4C chairman Huw Jones said: "Discussions with DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] are scheduled to begin very soon in relation to the combined funding from the licence fee and government which, together, provide us with the means to make programmes and deliver the S4C service.

"The substantial cuts we have already faced since 2010 provide a significant context and throughout these discussions we will be emphasising the uniqueness of the S4C service, and its value and importance, both culturally and economically."

The consultation document said the BBC's role in supporting native languages within the British Isles was "particularly important".

"This is a small market with limited potential to be served effectively by commercial broadcasters, and therefore a key area where public funding can support under-served audiences," it continued.

However, the document noted that "audience reach has been falling across some indigenous language services over the last few years, particularly in Wales".

It added that the higher hourly cost of Welsh-language radio programming compared to English-language output "raises concerns about value for money".

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