The Chief Executive of S4C has warned that sufficient funding is critical to the future of the Welsh language Channel.
In a speech at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Bala about S4C's provision over the next decade and a half, Ian Jones said that the channel must be sufficiently funded, or services would be endangered.
According to Mr Jones, sufficient funding of the channel is crucial if S4C is to continue to provide comprehensive services in Welsh, on all widely used platforms. He stressed that the Welsh broadcaster is managing to cope with the cuts already made to its budget, but that it must now plan for a service which will be able to evolve and keep pace over the next decade and beyond.
In his speech he said:
“Those who control the purse strings have to accept that a national channel deserves sufficient funding. It is high time we stopped thinking about S4C as some kind of Cinderella in the world of broadcasting. It shouldn’t be a poor relative, but a national treasure. And there is a price to pay for that.”
While S4C doesn’t have certainty that the current budget will continue beyond April 2016, the 2011 Public Bodies Act puts a statutory duty upon the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that the Welsh language broadcaster is sufficiently funded.
In his speech at the Urdd Eisteddfod, Ian Jones outlined his plans for the long-term future of the channel’s services - saying that provisions for future generations of young Welsh speakers had to be secured.
Mr Jones said he wants to work with others to ensure that the language remains a contemporary medium as technology further changes the public’s way of life.
At the same time, S4C’s Chief Executive published a consultation document which is a starting point for debate as the channel's budget is discussed during the period of the BBC Charter review and as political parties plan for the next general election. The document, called S4C: The Future of Welsh Language Television, places a strong emphasis on ensuring that the language remains relevant to the daily lives of the audience through the channel's services.
The document identifies several key action points:
• To provide comprehensive quality content for audiences that will evolve and innovate.
• Maintain and expand the audience in a competitive, multi-platform world.
• Ensure the independence of the channel, contributing to maintaining a multi-provider media landscape in Wales.
By achieving these objectives, said Ian Jones, S4C will contribute to the efforts to ensure that the number of Welsh speakers is increasing.
The consultation document will inform discussions on the future funding of S4C. The document stresses the importance of maintaining S4C's current funding sources - with around 90% of the annual budget coming from the License Fee, and about 8% directly by the UK Government (DCMS).
Following the speech, S4C Chief Executive, Ian Jones, said:
"Currently, the S4C funding situation is very uncertain and there's no guarantee of our current budget beyond April 2016. But what is important is that there is a statutory duty upon the Secretary State to ensure that the channel is sufficiently funded. So now is the time for us to discuss the exact nature of the service in the future. If we are to ensure that S4C can still provide a comprehensive public media service in Welsh, and if the service is going to be available on all widely used platforms, then the financial package has to be sufficient.
"What is important for us to remember is that we must plan for a time when the viewing habits of people in Wales are going to be very different to today. Therefore, our sights are fixed on ensuring that S4C is in a position where it can evolve and move with the times. No one is sure at this stage what the next decade's major technological developments will be - but we can be certain that there will be developments.
"It is vitally important to the future of the Welsh language that we continue to provide resources and services that enable the audience to use the latest technology in their own language. Without this, the language could become less relevant to our daily lives.
"As S4C has repeatedly shown, the channel's bold and exciting content is raising the bar in terms of television in Wales. Naturally, it is vital to maintain what pluralism remains in the Welsh media, but also ensure that the media content is available for people to watch in whichever way they choose."
S4C Chief Executive, Ian Jones was speaking in the Annedd Wen Pavilion at the 2014 Urdd Eisteddfod in Bala.
A copy of the consultation document S4C: The Future of Welsh Language Television is available here http://www.s4c.co.uk/keynote/e_index.shtml