Friday, October 15, 2010

S4C's future

Hand wringing idealists have always been loved more than hard headed realists. Sadly, I've always been one of the latter - though hopefully, I've learned to understand (and even empathise) with the former. Never has the difference between these two characteristics been more obvious than in current attitudes towards the future funding of S4C. In the end, its the latter who actually deliver, even if destined to remain unloved. Lets consider where we are.

The UK economy is in a very bad place. Government is spending around £500 million more every day than it has coming in. Before the election campaign, the main plank of my campaign, and other Conservatives was that this destruction of our children's legacy has to end. Since then, its become clear that the finances are even worse than anyone thought. On 20th October, all the signs are that public spending is going to see reductions, the like of which will not ever have been seen before. This post is about where S4C fit into all this.

I have no idea of what discussions about this issue has taken place (except those I've been involved in, and those that have been 'leaked' to the media) but I have assumed that Jeremy Hunt's culture budget will take a big hit. The Secretary of State must be facing impossible choices. As of yesterday, he had not 'settled' with the Treasury. Now, this is where my 'hard-nosed realism' comes in. Much as I would like it to be the case, I cannot reasonably call for S4C to continue enjoying inflation-protected increases while every other budget suffers large reductions, (made even larger by the protected status of S4C). My view is that such a scenario is unrealistic. Seems to me that a 'realistic' ambition is to minimise any decrease in S4C's funding that there might be.

All that happened yesterday was that the UK Government announced that S4C will continue as an independent Welsh language channel, but that the current legal 'link' of S4C's budget to an annual inflation increase should end. I have not yet spoken to anyone who disagrees with this, (except representatives of the channel). What I want is a recognition of the importance of S4C to Wales by securing a lesser reduction in the channel's budget than the Culture Secretary's other budget heads. No idea whether this will happen. Will be listening to the Chancellor's speech on Wed, though the detail of the culture budget may not be available until later. There is a lot more I'd like to say, particularly about the relationship-destroying selective leaking of private discussions. Thank goodness for my 'hard headed realism', which informs me that I should write no more.

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