Friday, October 22, 2010

S4C - looking back in anger, or not?

Been involved in lots of discussion about the future funding of S4C over the last few days. Better be careful what I post, because the S4C board tell us they are going to law over something or other to do with this issue - (wonder where the money's coming from to pay the costs?). Best begin with a personal recap. I had thought it reasonable that S4C should face some reduction in public funding. after all, the most vulnerable people in our society were having to make a contribution to clearing up the financial problems facing our country. It inevitably follows that I supported the Government's decision to cut the link between S4C funding and the rate of inflation. This had to be done. I know that several people disagreed, demanding that S4C be treated the same as the BBC, thus suffering no cut at all. I suppose their position is a bit 'stuffed' now that the BBC is facing a rather large cut itself! Interestingly, the Chairman of the BBC has welcomed the 6 year licence fee agreement as very good news. Its clearly a better 6 year deal than he had expected.

But back to the S4C issue. I cannot disclose private conversations, but I've been very surprised by the number of people who have told me that the CSR deal is a good one for S4C, and the exchequer, (and even the BBC). In today's Western Mail, Euryn Ogwen has gone public and said that the new arrangements should allow the channel to prosper. These comments don't quite fit in with the orchestrated 'outrage' we have seen from some quarters.

In assessing my 'take' on the proposed changes, its useful to consider what I actually wanted two weeks ago. I wanted S4C to continue as an 'independent' Welsh Language channel, funded sufficiently well to provide quality output. I had already been told that a lot of work was going on to merge the 'back office' work or S4C and the BBC, and knew there would have to be some form of protocol to protect S4C from domination by its 'leviathonic' partner. When I try to take an impassioned view of this highly-charged issue, I'm not sure that I didn't get all that I wanted. The only with a genuine grouse that has real credibility is the BBC, though even here, it seems that the outcome is better than the bosses were expecting. And Rupert Murdoch thinks the Beeb have got away far too lightly. I wonder what the people of Wales think?


MH said...

Glyn, I've just done a bit of number crunching myself, which I've posted here.

You say that, "the only [organization] with a genuine grouse that has real credibility is the BBC, though even here, it seems that the outcome is better than the bosses were expecting."

I'm sorry to tell you that you can't say that based on the actual figures. According to the DCMS/BBC agreement and the spreadsheet issued by the DCMS itself, the BBC will face a 16% loss of income when the additional commitments it has agreed to are taken into account. In contrast S4C will face a 24% loss of income over the same period.

So it's clear that S4C has much more of a grouse than the BBC. The cuts it faces are a full 50% greater than those of the BBC.

Simon Brooks said...

Let me start by saying that I believe that the Welsh Conservatives made a serious and honest attempt to save the situation. The only good thing to come out of this disastrous decision is that it shows that we do now have a Conservative Party in Wales capable of expressing its own views on matters when it disagrees with Westminster. I welcome this.

On the decision itself, it is a disaster. Jeremy Hunt's letter to Sir Michael Lyons spells out the backroom stitch up on this issue.

The key issues are:

1. If S4C is to yield corporate "and broad editorial" independence to a mish-mashed body of BBC and S4C representatives, if it is to operate under a BBC Trust Service Licence, and if the BBC is to decide on the level of its financing, then how can one seriously claim that S4C remains independent?

2. When a letter notes that "the exact level of BBC funding is not set beyond 2014/15", and if S4C is to compete against other BBC outlets in an internal battle for finance, it is fair to ask what commitment there is in the BBC to the proper financing of Welsh-language television? There appears to be very little. Things are not helped by the continual propaganda on BBC outlets comparing S4C to BBC Alba. On closer examination, it transpires that BBC Alba has a budget of £14 million.

It doesn't surprise me, Glyn, that some broadcasters might or might not welcome this. People have careers and some are positioning themselves within the new power structure.

What should worry you is this. Once one removes BBC executives, politicians and various broadcasters, what has been the reaction of the Welsh-speaking audience?

The reaction, despite the huge BBC propaganda offensive on Radio Cymru, has been very bad. I suspect that your constituents in places like Bro Ddyfi and Dyffryn Banw are not asking technical questions. They are probably asking things like what will happen to Cyw and childrens programmes in the medium of Welsh? When it transpires that the BBC Trust in London is not overkeen on spending £15million a year on kids programmes which they falsely believe nobody watches, the reaction will be very bad indeed.

Glyn Davies said...

MH - Don't dispute your figures at all. They are as I understood them to be. Just that a week ago, the BBC would not have thought that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the CSR. The BBC is funded from the licence fee, which was not due for negotiation. First I heard of this was when there were reports of the BBC paying for concessionary licences, which would have been a much greater blow. Looks as if the BBC think its a good deal because it gives 6 years security of budget.

Simon - I agree that a robust mechanism to ensure editorial freedom is important - and there will undoubtedly be some debate on this. You could be right about about what people think. But I will say that apart from contacts directly from S4C, I have not had a single email on the issue. And this morning I attended the opening ceremony at the Powys Eisteddfod in Llanidloes, and again not a single person raised it with me. only one person has raised the issue - someone I met at Welshpool Livestock Mart last week. This is not to belittle the issue, because I think it is hugely important to Wales and her Language. Its just that to me, what we have is so much better than I'd feared could happen.

Anonymous said...

You've probably not received any emails and the like simply because on any other issue to do with wales, you simply palm it off as an issue for the welsh assembley in cardiff!!!