Open letter to Government for a long-term solution for S4C

18 June 2015

TAC has sent an open letter to the Chancellor and the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport and for Wales, asking for measures to be introduced to help the sector, including a long-term strategy for S4C.

TAC’s letter welcomes the continuity in the new Government, which means that those ministers have a knowledge and understanding of the independent sector and of S4C, and praises measures such as the creative industry tax breaks.

The letter goes on to state that the next step is to establish a long-term funding and governance arrangement for S4C.

Currently the funding for S4C is split between a £6.7m grant from DCMS and £75m from the TV Licence Fee. As a result S4C is partly overseen by the BBC Trust, although it remains a separate broadcaster with its own editorial policy and management. TAC’s policy manifesto, published earlier in the year, suggested S4C’s funding should rise by 10% and be linked to inflation.

The letter also asks that the BBC Charter Review be used to encourage the BBC to commission more from Welsh producers for its UK network services, as part of better representing all the nations and regions of the UK.

TAC Chair Iestyn Garlick said:

“The Government has already introduced some positive measures for the creative industries. The next step is for S4C, due to its role as a driver for creativity and economic growth, as well as its cultural importance, to have a long-term stable platform in terms of funding and governance.”

“Its viewing figures are healthy, particularly since S4C has been on i-player, and S4C creates an economic value to the Welsh economy which is double the amount it invests. For this to continue it’s important that S4C’s funding is set at a sustainable level and that its governance is clearer. The outcome of Charter Review should include a long-term future for S4C, and in the short term, any cuts the BBC has to make due to the Licence Fee being frozen should not include S4C, as it is a separate broadcaster”.

Elsewhere, the letter asks that the high-end TV tax credit be given a reduced threshold for minority language productions, a step which could attract extra investment into Wales. This measure was also included in TAC’s manifesto.

ENDS

Open letter to HM government regarding

BBC Charter Review, S4C and the Welsh independent TV production sector

16 June 2015

Rt Hon George Osborne MP – Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Secretary of State

Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP – Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP – Secretary of State for Wales

 

Copied:

Edward Vaizey MP – Minister of State, Depts for Culture, Media & Sport and Business Innovation & Skills

Alun Cairns MP – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

 

Dear Chancellor and Secretaries of State

As the representative body for the independent TV production sector in Wales, Teledwyr Annibynnol Cymru (TAC) welcomes the ministerial continuity following May’s election. The Chancellor’s tax-breaks have provided a real to boost the UK’s creative industries; the Secretary of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Wales Office have championed our sector within the broadcasting industry; and the Minister of State at DCMS has been supportive in his statements concerning the independent sector and Welsh language broadcasting. In addition the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport brings to the role a detailed knowledge of independent production and broadcasting.

As you are all aware, our sector produces a wide range of content across all genres (including drama, children’s, live music and sports, animation, and current affairs) for S4C, BBC Wales, and the UK network broadcasters, in addition to international co-productions and other content.

TAC has sought to work closely with the UK Government, to establish a sustainable joined-up strategy for continuing the sector’s strong contribution to cultural diversity, media plurality and economic growth.

TAC members accepted the austerity measures in 2010, and have worked hard, along with S4C and the BBC, to be as efficient as possible to accommodate the reduction in funding.

In S4C’s case, it is important to remember that the moving in 2010 of the majority of its funding from a direct Government grant to the TV Licence Fee has meant a full 96% reduction in the cost of S4C to central public funds. TAC therefore welcomed the Government’s announcement in June 2013 that there would be no further reductions, in pure money terms, of the direct DCMS grant to S4C. However this still constitutes a real-terms reduction in S4C’s public funding.

S4C’s importance to the language and culture of Wales is clear, and viewing figures for Welsh language programmes are healthy, partly fuelled by i-player and other platforms, demonstrating that once the access is there, the audience will view the content.

S4C also delivers clear economic benefits, with its latest research showing that for every £1 it spends in the Welsh creative economy, £2.09 is created. TAC is sure the Government, having introduced the tax credits which have boosted the UK’s creative industries, will agree it would be counterproductive to undermine one of the key drivers for the sector in Wales. Both S4C and the BBC represent a real opportunity to provide much-needed jobs and growth in specific areas such as North Wales.

Regarding the BBC, it should move towards increasing its commissioning of independent creative companies, which have already demonstrated how they use new ideas, talent and perspectives to benefit the Licence Fee payer. This is particularly important in the nations, where we have seen some other broadcasters lessen such commitments.

As for the BBC Trust, its future is in question and the Trust’s own Chair recently suggested an outline form of the BBC’s regulation post-Charter, although regretfully without factoring in S4C to that proposed structure.

Taking the above into account, TAC would like the Government to consider the following steps:

  • In the Summer Budget, to announce a reduced threshold for the high-end TV drama tax break for minority language productions, which would enable TAC’s members to work with S4C to leverage the break to make such productions and encourage further investment into the Welsh economy
  • To demonstrate its continuing commitment to S4C, and by implication to our sector, by returning to an index-linked approach to S4C’s public funding, at a level suitable to continue to operate a quality Welsh language offering, which is necessarily not only a linear service TV but also encompasses multiplatform content and distribution
  • In the event of a continuing contribution to S4C from the TV Licence Fee, that this should be clearly ring-fenced to avoid it being subject to any cuts or changes in services made by the corporation in the future
  • To clarify the system of regulation of S4C, and for a long-term way to be found to oversee the spending of S4C’s funding, without it being encompassed within the regulation of the BBC
  • During the Charter Review process full account should be taken of the BBC’s investment in the creative sector, and rather than considering a reduction in the BBC’s scope, focus more on the delivery of its services in terms of it being as much as possible the best ideas regardless of sources, from around the UK. Maintaining the level of Licence Fee and linking it to inflation is important to maintain investment in our sector.

 

We look forward to discussing these issues with you over the coming months, and are ready and willing to play any part we can in helping shape the future of our sector, S4C and the BBC in Wales and beyond.

 Yours sincerely

TAC Council:

Iestyn Garlick (Chair) – Antena

Emyr Afan – Avanti

Dyfrig Davies – Telesgop

Dylan Huws – Cwmni Da

Mark John – Vision Thing

Gethin Thomas – Zeitgeist TV

Nia Thomas – Boom Cymru

Gareth Williams – Rondo Media

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