Friday, October 08, 2010

BBC cuts S4C budget by 20%.

On the face of things, it does look as if BBC Wales have really put the boot into S4C today. Can't say much because when I played rugby, I believed that "kicking 'em when they are down" was much the best policy! While the boffins at S4C, and people like me who care deeply about the channel, have been trying to limit what we fear as imminent reductions in UK Government support, along comes the Beeb and tells us that its support for S4C is to be cut by 20% over the next three years - from £23.5 million this year to £19.5 million in 2013. Bit like the patient anticipating leg amputation next week, having a finger cut off today!

Like many others, I was disappointed to hear this news - but not surprised. The BBC is currently under great financial pressure, (as it should be) and it's contribution to S4C has increased rapidly over recent years. In truth, we knew that something like this was coming. What's happened today, is that the BBC have decided to go public - for two main reasons. Or so it seems to me. Firstly it was important to get the BBC's 'cut' in before the UK Government's possible cut later this month. Back to the perception of 'kicking a man when he's down'! Today, it looks like a manageable little kick. After 20th October, it could look more like a seriously big kick. And secondly, it could be helpful to S4C in its negotiations with Jeremy Hunt's department, in that the Welsh Language channel can pray in aid an already cut budget.

Over the last few weeks, we have read much about the £100 million which S4C receives annually from the Treasury. There has been very little discussion about the £23.5 million it receives from the TV licence payer (via the BBC). The total is a truly massive amount of money. The BBC's 'defence' is that it has less money available. It must cut 20% of the money it spends on Welsh Language programme production. Its inevitable to balance the books. There is no alternative. I wonder if we are going to see the same response to this decision as we would see to a similar decision, were it to taken by DCMS in two weeks time - and taken for exactly the same reason? Somehow I very much doubt it. The Welsh establishment will not want to kick its own.


Simon Brooks said...

Why on earth does the BBC need to cut its spending on Welsh language TV programmes by 20%? Is it cutting its expenditure on English language TV in the UK by 20%? Has its licence fee been cut by 20%? Have the number of bureaucrats at the BBC been cut by 20%?

Unfortunately, it does not seem at the moment that we are all in this together. Those of us who use Welsh language services seem to be in it rather more deeply than others.

Glyn Davies said...

Simon, I think that the cost of producing the statutory hours programming for S4C has risen substantially over the last three or four years, and there has been discussion for a while about how to 'rebalance' the BBC Wales budget. I think the aim is to spend/invest around the same amount in English and Welsh Language programmes. Sorry if this makes me read like a spokesman for the BBC!!