Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Backing S4C

Defending the interests of S4C is one of those issues needing consistent vigilance and persistence in the House of Commons. Cannot afford to miss any chance to declare how much it matters. Noticed yesterday that Labour was using it's 'opposition day' slot for a debate criticising the Gov't's White Paper on BBC Charter Renewal. I thought I'd appear in the chamber and make an intervention. Very few there. Labour had called the debate (using up this high profile slot) and then they didn't turn up!! Anyway, I asked Speaker if I could be a late entry into the debate, a request grateful accepted.

It was an odd choice of debate, based on criticisism of a White Paper outlining Govt approach to charter renewal, which most people accept as favourable to the BBC. Even the BBC are supportive. Of course there are anti-Government lobbyists arranging petitions etc? but with scant justification. They are already active on social network. I received hundreds before the White Paper was even published, attacking what was in it- before anyone had seen it. Ludicrously, the Speaker even allowed an Urgent Question in Parliament on the White Paper the day before it was published. It's an old trick to guess what Govt is going to do, demand that this be done and then claim credit for forcing the Gov't's hand. Anyway, I thought Labour MPs struggled to generate much disagreement. It all looked rather contrived, especially with almost no Labour MPs there!

I made only one substantive point. About S4C - so important to Welsh culture and Welsh Language. During the last Parliament, funding of S4C was switched from DCMS (the Govt) to the BBC (licence fee). Today it's where 90% of S4C's funding comes from. Separately, Govt has agreed to conduct an Independent Review of S4C - but this won't take place until BBC Charter Renewal is complete. My concern (and S4C's) is that the new agreed Charter may have a constraining impact on the independence of the Independent Review. My speech was not a complaint as such. It was raising an important aspect of Charter Review discussions at an early stage. I don't want S4C being forgotten about.

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