The Assembly Government Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones is a decent enough fellow, but even these can irritate at times. And he's irritated me today. Or at least something he's said has irritated me. According to the BBC, it seems he has arranged a meeting with UK Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to discuss the future of S4C at the Ryder Cup. Nothing wrong with that. And Alun Ffred says "S4C is not merely a channel. It is part of a wider strategy involving the Welsh Language". Nothing wrong with that either. But he followed it up with "I'm not sure Mr Hunt understands that." I reckon that Mr Hunt understands this only too well. I think I understand it. The Wales Office team understand it, and there are other Welsh Conservative MPs who understand it as well. The future of S4C, including its funding is a devilishly difficult and complex issue to deal with. Neither Assembly Government Ministers or Plaid Cymru have a monopoly of concern for the channel's success. Irritating.
Now I don't know what is in Jeremy Hunt's mind, but we all know that he has been challenged by the Chancellor to consider how to accommodate significant cuts in public spending. I would be surprised if he is not having to look at every single budget head - such is the scale of the wreckage left by the last Government. Actually, even Alun Ffred is reported to have said that S4C is "not untouchable". Perhaps he'll be able to explain to Jeremy Hunt just what he meant by that. Could it be the basis for agreement?
Because I'm a PPS in the Wales Office, I have to be circumspect - but I can reasonably pose some simple obvious questions, such as;
Was it not reasonable to assume that S4C was content to accept a £2million cut in funding this year if its Chief Executive so informed Jeremy Hunt's Department, and what sort of an organisation is it that has its Chair and Chief Executive taking diametrically opposing views on such a crucial issue? Were they not talking to each other?
If The UK Government is forced, by the incompetence of its predecessors, into making cuts in spending across almost all fronts, including what impacts on vulnerable people who depend on Government support, should a broadcaster be regarded as being uniquely exempt?
Should a broadcasting channel, dependent on huge public support, just sack a Chief Executive, appoint a successor without any sort of advertising process, and treat its paymaster as being without any rights at all to an explanation? We all know what shareholders would have done!
And there's a whole lot of other questions as well. At present, all sorts of barely credible rumours are circulating about what is, and has been going on. I really care about S4C, and if its decided that the channel must take some of the spending reduction burden, I hope it can be done without causing structural damage to a star in the Welsh firmament. What I really dislike though, is listening to people like Alun Ffred assuming that he has a monopoly on this.