TAC statement on Welsh Assembly Committee S4C Report

3 August 2017

TAC today commented on the Welsh Assembly Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee report on S4C.

TAC Chair Iestyn Garlick, who appeared before the Committee during its inquiry, said: “While we welcome some of the report’s findings, we are surprised that it states: ‘witnesses have been less clear on what level of additional funding is needed’. TAC has made clear that to bring down the level of current repeats, and ensure there is enough original content on the service, it needs a one-off 10% rise in S4C’s total combined public funding (from DCMS and from the TV Licence Fee). This would be around £8.2m, in addition to the extra £6m S4C says is needed to successfully operate on a wide range of platforms. Its funding also needs to be linked to inflation.”

“The report also suggests a review of the Terms of Trade governing broadcasters’ commissioning from independent producers. Ofcom reviewed the Terms of Trade just two years ago and found them fit for purpose, and they are the backbone of the Welsh and wider UK TV industry’s success across the world. Any undermining of them could be catastrophic in terms of damaging our competitiveness in a key growth sector.”

“The focus of the forthcoming review must be on S4C being fit for purpose of the future, which means ensuring it is working with a wide range of production companies across the country; companies who are also working hard to achieve UK-wide and international success.”

-ENDS-

Contact

Iestyn Garlick, Chair: 07974 184 764

Tim Wilson, Policy Adviser: 07909 560 374

Notes

  1. TAC’s submission to the CWLC can be found here.
  2. TAC subsequently wrote again to the Committee on two occasions during the inquiry:
    • To provide further comment on some of the lines of inquiry pursued during the evidence session with TAC and
    • To comment on the S4C document ‘Pushing the Boundaries’.
  3. More on the Committee inquiry.

TAC Policy Priorities – What the Review of S4C must deliver:

  1. Funding:
    • S4C’s repeat figures are now 63%. This is unacceptable, and a 10% increase in public funding is needed to commission more content
    • This means 10% of the combined total of public funding sources, the current total of which stands at around £82m, consisting of c. £75m from TVLF + c. £6.7m from DCMS
    • TAC wants an extra £8.2m on top of the £6m that S4C say they need for developing on digital platforms, giving S4C the right to produce digital output officially, and have the necessary funding to do this
    • S4C’s public funding must also be linked to inflation (as the BBC’s funding now is).
  1. Maintaining Independence:
    • S4C should not be answerable to another broadcaster, namely the BBC, as it currently is. The TV Licence Fee funds allocated to S4C should go directly to the S4C Authority or Ofcom, not via the BBC
    • Maintaining S4C prominence on the EPG is core to reinforcing its identity as a separate and important service, like the other PSB providers
    • Governmental responsibility for S4C should remain at UK level. S4C is part of a wider UK broadcasting ecology. It should be seen in that context, and policy decisions made accordingly
    • TAC would support S4C having a separate unitary Board like the BBC, but it still needs a separate regulator from Ofcom to reflect the specific circumstances around Wales. This regulator could in turn report to Ofcom but would need its own robust policy team
  1. A strong partnership with the independent TV production sector in Wales:
    • S4C relies on the independent production sector in Wales for its content (40-50 active companies), and cannot exist without it
    • The previous S4C-BBC Trust Operating Agreement (clause 2.6) stated that: ‘S4C should commission the vast majority of its content from independent production companies’ and that ‘[S4C’s commissions from the BBC] should only ever constitute a small proportion of the overall content commissioned by S4C’
    • As the Operating Agreement is no longer valid (following the abolition of BBC Trust), this requirement must be explicit in S4C’s core remit to ensure it has at its heart a commitment to maintain and grow the independent sector.

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