Tuesday, 7 July 2015

S4C caught in Tory-BBC crossfire.

It seems that the Tories war on the BBC will S4C caught in the cross fire and it seems that this may not be unintentional 
"Culture"Secretary John Whittingdale has said
 it is “reasonable” to expect Welsh language broadcaster S4C to make the same kind of savings that the BBC will have to find as it takes on the responsibility for providing free TV licences for over-75s.
The move is expected to cost the BBC £650m – the equivalent of around one-fifth of its income.
Since it is was a Westminster decision to grant free licences to the over  75 it  seems strange to make the corporation pay for it 
It is further evidence that the Cameron Government intention is to abolish the Licence Fee and make the BC dependent like other channels on advertising or even subscription
The culture secretary said:
 “I am confident that the BBC, which has a good record of achieving efficiency savings, can continue to do so over the coming years.
"It is the case of course that the taking-on of the cost of providing the free TV licence is being phased-in and will not start until 2018.
“With respect to S4C, I think it is reasonable to expect that S4C should make the same kind of efficiency savings that the Government is looking to the BBC to make.”
This despite S4C already carrying out viscous cuts in its output

 in March 2010  in what  appeared to be  a deliberate campaign to undermine  S4C leaked internal reports  purported  to show  that "over the 20-day period from February 15 to last Saturday, March 6, as many as 196 of the 890 programmes put out by S4C were rated as having zero viewers". An S4C spokesperson responded that 90% of these programmes were aimed at children, whose viewing isn't fully measured by BARB, the organisation that compiles television ratings in the UK, as they only take into account viewers aged four years and over.[ The remaining 10% consisted of repeats and daytime news bulletin

The result of this undermining saw  although S4C was originally financed from its advertising revenue and a fixed annual grant from the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), receiving £90m of funding in Additionally, some Welsh-language programming (including Newyddion and Pobol y Cwm) were produced by BBC Wales as part of the BBC's public service remit, and provided to S4C free of charge.

.From 2013, responsibility for funding S4C was to transfer to the BBC, with the DCMS reducing its funding by 94% by 2015.[ The BBC will provided around £76m of funding to S4C by this date, resulting in a cut of around 25% to S4C's annual budget]

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Jonathan Edwards was shocked stating: 

“The minister’s response confirmed my and many others’ fears that the future funding of Welsh broadcasting is under threat. By my calculations, the BBC could eventually face a cut of nearly 20%.

“A reduction of this magnitude in its disposable budget will inevitably have an impact on its operations in Wales. Due to the way in which S4C is largely funded by the licence fee, this raises concerns that its budget will also face a further significant reduction.

As the only Welsh-language channel in the world, S4C provides an unique and important service which forms an integral part of the creative industries in Wales. Today’s statement will prompt major worries about the future funding of the BBC in Wales and of S4C.
“The Government has dropped a bombshell and broadcasters in Wales deserve urgent clarity on what exactly this means for their future funding prospects.”

 Earlier in the day, Cymdeithas Yr Iaith  Jamie Bevan, stated in a letter to the culture secretary: 

“Back in 2010, a decision was made about S4C’s funding without any consultation with the people of Wales or the National Assembly for Wales.
"As you know, the Government’s grant to the channel was cut by 93% and, even taking into account the financial contribution taken from the licence fee, the Welsh channel’s budget has been cut by some 40% over the past five years.

“We are greatly concerned that Wednesday’s Budget will once again have effects on S4C without any discussions in advance with the people of Wales. We urge you to ensure that there are no changes to S4C’s budget or structures without full consultation.
“S4C is no ordinary channel, but rather a broadcaster established following a mass campaign, with a number of people sacrificing their freedom to ensure it came into being. While the English language media has grown substantially over the last 20 years, Welsh speakers across Britain continue to have to depend on just one television channel.”

Any further cuts in S$C will lead to a cycle of deterioration in the quality of its output which will  inevitably lead to a deterioration in viewers which will reach an extent that the Westminster government will then cheerfully hand the Welsh language Channel to the Assembly who will not be given any additional funds.  

Whether this is a deliberate policy to destroy Welsh Language Television is open to question but this is very likely to be the outcome and the Westminster Government must answer for its actions.

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