An agreement has been reached between the S4C Authority, the BBC Trust and the DCMS on the future funding, governance and accountability of S4C until 2017.
The arrangements will protect the editorial and managerial independence of S4C, whilst safeguarding appropriate accountability to the BBC Trust for licence fee funding spent by the service.
This agreement concludes the negotiations between S4C, the BBC Trust and the UK Government after last year’s BBC licence fee settlement, in which it was agreed to establish a new partnership and funding arrangements for S4C.
It follows yesterday’s announcement by the BBC regarding the level of licence fee that will be provided to S4C for the final two years of the BBC Charter.
The chairmen of both organisations welcomed the progress that had been made in reaching agreement on these issues.
BBC Trust Chairman, Lord Patten, said:
“This is good news for the Welsh-speaking audience. Our agreement safeguards S4C’s editorial independence while ensuring effective oversight of licence fee funds. It will also forge a closer working relationship between BBC Wales and S4C, which will see savings reinvested in quality programming that viewers expect.
“I’d like to pay particular tribute to our Trustee for Wales, Elan Closs Stephens, for her significant contribution to the successful conclusion of these negotiations.”
Chairman of the S4C Authority, Huw Jones said:
“The outcome is a significant step forward for the Channel at the end of detailed and protracted talks between the three parties, and I would like to pay tribute to all who had participated in the discussions and negotiations that led up to what is a historic and significant agreement.
“This agreement will safeguard the Welsh language services provided by S4C for the foreseeable future. It will allow S4C to maintain its editorial and managerial independence, while providing accountability to the BBC Trust for income received from the licence fee, and to DCMS for its part of S4C’s funding. The funding formula which the BBC Trust has offered for the 2015-2017, and which the S4C Authority has accepted, while challenging, will provide stability for S4C and the production sector in a difficult financial climate, as we identify and deliver efficiencies, and build a new partnership with the BBC.
“I would like to thank all those individuals and organisations, in Parliament, the National Assembly and elsewhere, who have contributed so prominently to the public debate about the future of S4C, to Arwel Ellis Owen and the small, but wholly dedicated team at S4C, who have left no stone unturned, to BBC leaders and officials who have striven alongside us to arrive at a mutually acceptable conclusion, and to Ministers and officials at DCMS and the Wales Office whose overview has been invaluable. The S4C Authority is happy to commend this agreement and looks forward to participating in the public consultation process which the Secretary of State has undertaken to conduct.”
The key elements of the governance arrangement are:
o S4C will continue to be overseen by the S4C Authority, chaired by Huw Jones.
o S4C’s current statutory remit to provide high quality Welsh language programming will remain as now, overseen by the S4C Authority.
o The BBC Trustee for Wales will become a member of the Authority and the BBC will have a role, alongside S4C and the UK and Wales Government, in the selection of Authority members.
o The BBC Trust and S4C will establish an operating agreement for the S4C service, setting out the scope of the service to be provided by the licence fee.
o The operating agreement will be the key accountability document between the S4C Authority and the BBC Trust, and the Trust will report publicly each year on S4C’s achievement against it.
o S4C will have an independent management board consisting solely of S4C executives.
o S4C and BBC Wales will work together to deliver efficiencies in administrative and back office functions so that both S4C and BBC Wales can spend more money on programmes.
o S4C will continue to commission programming from the independent sector, as now.
The agreement on future governance and accountability has been reached ahead of a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon on S4C’s future. The position is subject to successful passage of the Public Bodies Bill.
Notes to editors
Licence fee settlement
On 20 October 2010, the BBC agreed with Government a new licence fee settlement for the remainder of the Charter period to 2016/17. [link to statement]
On 24 October 2011, the BBC Trust published the proposed allocation it will make from the licence fee towards S4C for the last two years of the current BBC licence fee settlement.
For 2015/16 this will be £75.25m, and in 2016/17 £74.5m. The amounts for 2013/14 and 2014/15 have previously been set at £76.3m and £76m respectively.