The committee reports on the proposed changes to S4C's funding and governance by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) following the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review. The committee says a deal over S4C's future was struck in "regrettable haste" by the BBC and Ministers, and that more detail should be given on the proposed funding and governance arrangements for the broadcaster. Nevertheless, the committee argues that the proposed deal should result in synergies and cost savings for both broadcasters.
With studies estimating that S4C is responsible for sustaining over 2,000 jobs in Wales and contributing £90-100 million to the Welsh economy, the committee says it is crucial that S4C continues to independently commission its programming from production companies based in Wales, rather than additional programming being supplied to the channel by the BBC.
Under the Government’s proposed arrangements, S4C’s funding will shift from being provided by a direct grant from DCMS to funding through the BBC's licence fee. The committee says that while it is essential that the DCMS, the BBC and S4C work together to achieve potential synergies and efficiencies, this must not detract from S4C’s independence. It says that the DCMS and the BBC must guarantee S4C’s funding and ensure that S4C receives in full its allocated portion of the licence fee.
The committee also argue for an enhanced role for the National Assembly for Wales in holding the S4C Authority to account for its performance and for a wider review of the purpose and remit of the broadcaster. MPs also welcome the opportunity to question the newly appointed Chairman of S4C before the successful candidate takes up their position.
Chair of the committee David T.C. Davies MP said:
"S4C holds a unique position as the world's only publicly funded provider of Welsh language services. It is a proud and central part of Welsh culture and language. We are satisfied that, for the most part, S4C is providing quality programming, especially its drama and children's programmes. However, looking forward we argue that, as S4C itself accepts, there is room for improvement in S4C’s performance as it competes in the multi-platform digital age.
Going forward, we are determined that S4C maintain its central position in the Welsh economy, commissioning more quality and popular programming from Welsh independent production companies, providing only Welsh language services and reaching a greater share of the approximately 600,000 Welsh speakers in the United Kingdom. In this new phase for S4C we want to see an increased focus on efficiency and improved audience figures for S4C’s output. We note that S4C itself recognises that it must raise its game in these areas.
As the partnership with the BBC is developed, is it essential that S4C maintains its operational and editorial independence. The BBC must not interfere in the day to day running of the channel. We have serious concerns about the way that the S4C Authority and management have performed over the last year or so. However, under its new Chairman, it is time for S4C to put the difficulties of the past 12 months behind it and for the management and S4C Authority to focus on its stewardship of a cherished national institution.
We intend to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the proposed new Chairman of S4C and we look forward to using that session to question the candidate about their vision for S4C’s future."