Chapter 3: Delivering the vision

S4C has thought long and hard about the future it wants for an exciting, enduring and sustainable service for our audience. We have listened to them, undertaken research and investigated the options within the present and proposed future media landscape.

Chapter 3: Delivering the vision

S4C has thought long and hard about the future it wants for an exciting, enduring and sustainable service for our audience. We have listened to them, undertaken research and investigated the options within the present and proposed future media landscape.

Without a substantial change to our remit and sensible investment we will have a static service in the short-to-medium term, and the relevance of our service as it is today will slowly dwindle. The public’s ability to access Welsh language content on popular platforms of the day will be further eroded and the place of the Welsh language in modern society will be undermined.

We want - and need - S4C to be enabled to flourish and evolve. In this way, the British media landscape remains diverse, buoyant and relevant; the Welsh language aspirations of the people of Wales are supported and Governments’ support for the Welsh language is reinforced; the Welsh and British economies are able to benefit even more from the sizeable impact of our activities; we raise more revenue for our public services – and, of vital importance, Welsh speakers anywhere in the world can be informed, educated and entertained with fantastic content, in their chosen – and Britain’s oldest – language.

To deliver our vision S4C is calling for:

  1. A new remit – to empower S4C to meet the challenges
  2. Stability, sufficiency and appropriate sources of funding – to arm S4C with adequate resource to deliver its remit in the digital age
  3. Appropriate accountability, governance and regulation arrangements – fit for the S4C of tomorrow


S4C’s current remit refers to

“providing television programme services of high quality with a view to their being available for reception wholly or mainly by members of the public in Wales.” 26

This remit has not fundamentally changed since we began broadcasting in 1982. If our service, audience expectations, technology and the world in which we operate had remained static in the past 35 years this would not be an issue. But of course, these things have changed – dramatically and beyond all recognition. A television in the corner of the room is no longer the only way of watching content; there are now hundreds of linear and online channels, not four, and our audience can not only watch what, when, where and how it likes – it can even create its own content for public viewing online, as well as directly influence broadcaster content through the likes of voting via apps and social media commentary or campaigns. Since the arrival of digital television, S4C itself is viewed and enjoyed across the UK, and, where rights allow, abroad as well.


Public Service Broadcasting is still important, but broadcasting should be seen as one of a number of tools at our disposal. We, along with other PSBs around the world, are no longer just providing a one-direction, linear broadcast television service. As different types of content evolve, along with how they are accessed by the audience, and as we develop our service in line with audience need, S4C should be re-classified as a Public Service Media content provider. This is a more contemporary reflection of our service and the way in which other UK PSBs are already operating. It will be relevant for decades to come and would bring S4C into line with UK and international PSB best practice.

As a PSM provider, we will build on the strengths of PSB, and maintain those elements, whilst recognising that broadcast is one of numerous modern content delivery methods.

It is clear that a ‘television only’ remit as defined by statute is outdated and constrains S4C’s ability to offer our audience in Wales, across the UK and beyond, content by different and innovative means. Nor does a remit defining our audience as being limited to those living in Wales, reflect today’s reality or the true value placed on the service.

Other public service broadcasters’ remits have been updated in recent years to enable them to embrace new technologies so that they can serve audiences across all media platforms.

S4C believes that its public service remit should be updated to enable S4C to provide:

  1. high-quality, Welsh language Public Service Media content;
  2. on television and digital platforms;
  3. to the audience in Wales, across the UK and beyond.

An amendment to the types of service S4C can provide, enabling the provision of relevant digital media content that would be complementary to the current Welsh language remit (defined in Part 2 of Schedule 12 to the 2003 Act) could be made by the Secretary of State by way of a Negative Resolution Order.

Early Work within the Vision

Such is our belief in this considered new direction that we have, where it has been possible, already started developing and trialling elements of our vision strategy:

  • We have put new people and processes in place.
  • We are changing the nature of some of our existing producer relationships, engendering more competition and finding creative ways to obtain new types of content.
  • We have prioritised, within limited resources, to ensure that S4C has a presence on some key platforms, rather than focusing solely on content.
  • We have dedicated existing resource to growing our social media presence.
  • We are investigating a raft of commercial investment opportunities, primarily through extending our own brands.

We will always work hard to explore new developments and introduce any that we believe to be vital to the service, but a change in remit is now essential to allow us to make the step change necessary from a single linear channel with limited digital offerings to a fullyfledged Public Service Media Content provider that can meet the needs of all of our audiences both now and in the future.


Stable and Sufficient Funding

To deliver our vision and secure the future of a vibrant, relevant and successful S4C for generations to come, stability and sufficiency of funding are crucial.

Under the Public Bodes Act 2011, the Secretary of State has a duty to consider the amount of funding required by S4C to enable us to provide our public broadcasting services, and then to make arrangements to ensure that this relevant amount of money is provided to S4C each year – either from Government money, or by making arrangements with other bodies to provide elements of the funding.

Currently, we have an agreed income from the TV licence fee of £74.5m until April 2022. The grant-in-aid from DCMS in 2016/17 was £6.762m. This, alongside transfers from our commercial subsidiaries, brings our total 2016/17 income to just over £83m.

To deliver and sustain the new levels of service we have described additional investment is required each year on top of our existing budget. Such additional investment, injected into our business at this pivotal time, will generate significant returns, including:

  • increased engagement with the Welsh language, which will contribute to growth in the number of Welsh speakers,
  • a more diverse and successful media service with greater audience engagement and increased appreciation,
  • an even more competitive, creative and digitally-skilled production sector, and
  • a higher level of contribution to both the Welsh and British economies.

What is Sufficient Funding?

(a) Realising Ubiquitous Content Delivery

Our aim is to deliver the platform and digital element of “Ubiquitous Content Delivery” over a five-year period. To do this without impacting on current levels of investment in content requires:

  • additional annual investment of £6m p.a. This will enable S4C to deliver its service on broadcast TV as well as digital platforms, to invest in new content for audiences on digital platforms and to incorporate archive content into the online offer.

(b) The Cost of Creating the Right Content

There can never be an absolutely definitive answer to the question “how much funding does S4C require to create the right content?” Whatever the funding available, the broadcaster’s job is to provide the best possible service which can be delivered with that money.

However, we know that S4C’s current content budget is not sufficient to deliver the vision as set out in Chapter 2 and therefore additional funding is needed if it is to be achieved.

The independent review offers an opportunity for S4C to present the factors we consider appropriate and relevant for the reviewer to take into account whilst examining the question of what is sufficient funding.

A key element for the review to consider will be the benchmarks which other broadcasters offer, and particularly the way these change over time. These give an idea as to whether the quality and range of what is on offer is likely to meet expectations.

As we have argued, the breadth and depth of the choice now available in English, in terms of programmes, platforms and channels is stunning. In English, commercial providers can step up to the plate, where public service broadcasters falter. In Welsh, that is not the case. S4C is still the only Welsh language TV channel.

Repeats now represent 58% of the S4C schedule – a significant increase since 2010 (54%). Equivalent figures are BBC One - 23% and ITV 1 - 28% according to Ofcom’s 2016 PSB report. We would encourage the reviewer to consider these statistics and whether they are acceptable to Welsh speaking audiences.

At the same time, while other broadcasters have been able to increase their per hour investment, particularly in high-power entertainment, drama and sport, to provide the “juggernaut” programmes which drive mass viewing and create cultural talking points, S4C finds itself reducing its cost per hour across all genres.

In addition, S4C’s content budget must in future be insulated against inflation pressures as outlined previously in in chapter 2. This, we believe, should be a key consideration for the review.

A substantial increase in funding for new content would deliver a richer service, one better able to meet the diverse expectations of the Welsh-speakers of today. Our ambition is to do exactly that.

(c) A Transparent Process

The Public Bodies Act gives the Secretary of State the duty of providing sufficient funding for S4C but makes no reference to any process which should be followed in coming to a decision as to the amount required. This weakness has made S4C vulnerable to periodic cuts and allowed fears to be expressed regarding the continuation of the Government’s commitment to the service.

To allay such fears, and provide stability for a reasonable period, it should now be a priority for the review to identify an objective and transparent process for deciding what constitutes sufficient funding for S4C, based on a new remit.

The issues of sufficiency and stability of funding and sources of support are common considerations across Public Service Media provision worldwide. The European Broadcasting Union, for example, has identified the key principles as being:

  • Stable and Adequate. A stable and predictable source of funding enabling full coverage of the public service remit in the digital media age
  • Independent from political interference. Not reliant on political favour, thereby promoting public trust in PSM and its role as a truly indispensable service.
  • Fair and Justifiable. Fair and objectively justifiable to the public and the market.
  • Transparent and Accountable. An open and clear funding mechanism holding PSM accountable to its audience.27

As one of the key pillars of public service media provision, S4C believes that stability of funding should be linked to a transparent process by which the level of funding is set for a specific and substantial period, such as five or ten years. This is the time-honoured convention with regard to the BBC, and as the only Welsh language TV content provider, S4C should be subject to similar levels of security and stability of sufficient funding.

There is recognition of this principle in the Framework Agreement which underpins the new BBC Charter and which requires the Secretary of State, the BBC and S4C, following the Review of S4C, to agree on a process for defining S4C funding from the licence fee for the period to 2027/28.

The process for defining S4C’s overall funding needs should include consideration of the following factors:

  1. Audience expectations
  2. The availability of Welsh language content on media platforms
  3. Comparative costs of content creation and rights acquisition
  4. S4C’s own efficiency
  5. The principle of “read across” to the licence fee
  6. Inflation and other cost pressures

These principles should be considered and discussed whenever there is a need to review S4C funding, including at the conclusion of the current review.

Appropriate Sources of Support

A change in remit to become a broader-based PSM provider (incorporating our current PSB status) should encourage those involved with the review to look more broadly as to where this additional investment might come from. We are keen to be given the opportunity to raise more money from our own activities but we remain clear that the back-bone of our public service will be publicly sourced funding. This is in keeping with the common principles of public service media provision set out above, and the UK’s long-established tradition of public service broadcasting in English and in Welsh.

We have worked hard to ensure that the licence fee-sourced contribution towards S4C’s funding works well – co-operating with both DCMS and the BBC to establish sound processes and appropriate accountability. We will endeavour to ensure that S4C continues to effectively access this important source of funding, while maintaining its independence. With licence fee funding channelled through the BBC, maintaining a funding link with the UK Government, via the DCMS, has been vital for S4C’s continued independence and for our ability to carry out our Welsh language remit.

S4C remains firm in its belief that plurality of funding remains beneficial and a principle to be safeguarded for the future. Any future funding options must also maintain S4C’s status as an independent, trusted and impartial content provider.