This document sets out S4C’s vision for the next ten years and will be a key element of our submission to the
forthcoming independent review of the channel’s remit, funding and accountability.
In this executive summary we set out the key points outlined within the document chapter by chapter.
Chapter 1: S4C Today
In the first chapter, we set out S4C as it is today. We consider the
context within which we operate, how this has evolved in the 35 years
since the channel was created and what this means for the S4C of
- S4C broadcasts more than 115 hours of programming every
week, including a children’s service, drama, news, entertainment,
sport, factual programming, music and events.
- Our content reflects the diversity of life in modern Wales and of the
Welsh speaking audience.
- S4C commissions the vast majority of our Welsh-language content
from a wide range of skilled, independent production companies
(around 50 each year over recent years), based throughout Wales.
- The economic impact of the public funds invested in the production
sector and creative industries is significant – every £1 invested by S4C
in the economy in Wales and the UK creates a total value of £2.09.
- The BBC also provides a minimum of ten hours of programming per
week to the service from its own budgets.
- After broadcast, S4C programmes can be viewed via S4C’s own online
catch-up facility or on the BBC iPlayer - a result of the wider strategic
partnership with the BBC.
- Our operation is lean, with organisational overheads maintained at
around 4% and cost per hour of content reduced by over a third since
- The number of Welsh speakers in Wales has risen by more than 10%
since S4C was launched in 1982. The language today thrives and is
used by nearly three quarters of a million people in Wales and the UK
to differing extents in their lives – at home, school, work and leisure.
- In 2015/16 we achieved our highest weekly UK television viewing
figures in nine years, (629,000). Across the year, 9.9m people viewed
S4C content throughout the UK (up from 8.4m in 2014/15)
The world is changing
- When S4C was launched in 1982, there were just four TV channels.
Today there are hundreds – increasing choice and competition.
- Over recent years, there has been a huge increase in online platforms
with audiences migrating to them from traditional TV channels.
- Other Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) have been able to launch
channels to target migrating audiences.
- In future S4C must ensure that we make Welsh language content
available on as many platforms as possible.
- S4C’s remit is old fashioned – created in line with media consumption
habits from the past. It does not allow us to commission specifically
for digital audiences.
Chapter 2: An S4C for Tomorrow – Our Vision
This chapter sets out in detail our vision for a new engaging and
constantly evolving S4C in terms of the content we commission and
how people access that content. We outline the steps we will take to
provide modern and comprehensive public service media content to
existing and new audiences.
Our vision is built on four key elements:
- Ubiquitous Content Delivery: Ensuring audience segments can
access S4C content when, where and how they want.
- Creating the Right Content: Making it more relevant, competitive and
- Wider Public Service Value: Bringing about economic, linguistic and
educational benefits from our work.
- A commercial strategy to help drive the vision: Enhancing our
commercial capabilities and reputation.
Ubiquitous Content Delivery
S4C must become a Welsh language Public Service Media (PSM)
provider on all popular platforms – broadcast, Smart TVs, social media,
short-form video sites, online long-form, etc. We must do this at the
same time as continuing to invest in our presence on main broadcast TV
- develop a digital one-stop-shop which enables our audience to access
all S4C content in one place, including archive content where relevant
rights can be secured.
- offer a personalised service for audience members – content that
meets individual needs and the ability to curate accordingly on
- ensure that S4C’s brand and content becomes as prominent and
easily accessible as other PSB providers on Smart TVs, media
streamers and other on-demand providers.
- develop and exploit appropriate platforms for digital content delivery
to target different age groups, and populate them regularly with
compelling new short-form content.
Creating the Right Content
S4C will revitalise the linear channel – delivering a more exciting, bolder
and more varied linear channel which will play a greater part in our
audience’s lives – using technology to allow further viewer interaction.
To do this, S4C needs to be able to compete with other broadcasters
who are currently offering higher tariffs, while S4C’s content budget is
reducing due to funding reductions and inflationary pressures. The real
terms value of S4C’s current content budget is forecast to fall over the
next five years – £1.6m down next year, £8.7m down by 2021/22.
- create more viewing opportunities for families to enjoy as a group –
cementing the role of the TV channel as the home of family viewing in
- create significant high-profile events – highlights in the schedules that
draw people together and get people talking in communities and on
- create two main types of short-form content – original, standalone
content which drives completely new audience interactions across
non-linear platforms; and content that promotes, extends interest in
and supplements existing programmes.
- change our way of commissioning to encompass all forms of content.
- improve communication with producers and nurture a clear
understanding of our increasing creative expectations.
S4C’s Wider Public Service Value
S4C’s public service content is widely valued and appreciated by our
audience. But as the only Welsh language public service broadcaster
and content provider, we make a considerable and wider public service
contribution to Wales and the Welsh language and we will work hard to
enhance our impact over the next ten years.
- support the Welsh language to claim its place in the digital world
through commissioning and making available a range of digital
- place a greater focus on championing diversity, inclusivity and social
mobility through our content and commissioning.
- offer more content which provides and reaffirms educational
experiences for all ages.
- do more to encourage language transfer through programming.
- do more to help develop media skills – including those which feed
into the Welsh production sector.
- increase investment in the digital and creative industries in line with
A Commercial Strategy to Help Drive the Vision
S4C’s Commercial arm aims to return sustainable dividends to S4C’s
public service. Our aim over the next five years is to build on current
achievements, and deliver even more value for the public service.
S4C Masnachol/Commercial will:
- take on-air brands and investigate ways in which we can extract more
value – further developing plans already in the pipeline.
- create more big, bold drama co-productions and formats for
exploitation internationally – building on existing projects.
- develop new partnerships to generate new types of content for all
- make business investments that help meet the vision and create
financial returns for the service.
Chapter 3: Delivering the Vision
In this chapter we set out the strategic priorities we believe the
review of S4C should consider. These will enable us to deliver the
vision set out in Chapter 2 and meet the Welsh speaking population’s
A new remit
S4C needs an updated, flexible remit to enable us to carry out our
vision. This would see S4C evolving into a Public Service Media content
provider – incorporating the current TV remit and the ability to create
and deliver content on other platforms and recognising our role in
serving audiences throughout the UK.
The new remit should enable the channel to provide:
- high-quality, Welsh language Public Service Media content;
- on television and digital platforms;
- to the audience in Wales, across the UK and beyond.
Stable and sufficient funding
To deliver our vision, 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 and to make
arrangements to ensure that this amount of money is provided to S4C
each year – either from Government money, or by making arrangements
with other bodies.
Currently S4C has an income of 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.
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?”
The broadcaster’s job is to provide the best possible service which
can be delivered with the money that is available.
However, S4C’s current content budget is not sufficient to deliver the
vision set out in Chapter 2 and therefore additional funding is needed if
it is to be achieved.
S4C has outlined the factors we consider appropriate and relevant for
the independent review to consider whilst examining the question of
what is sufficient funding. They are:
- benchmarks set by other broadcasters, and the way they change over
- the fact that S4C is the only Welsh language television channel;
- S4C’s repeat levels, currently up to 58%;
- S4C’s cost per hour across all genres compared to other PSBs’ ability
- the need to insulate S4C’s budget against inflationary pressures;
- the likely positive impact of a substantial increase in investment on the
(c)A transparent process for the future
The Public Bodies Act 2011 makes no reference to any process
the Secretary of State should follow in coming to a decision as to the
amount required to fund S4C. This weakness has made S4C
vulnerable to periodic cuts and allowed fears to be expressed
regarding the continuation of the Government’s commitment.
It should be a priority for the review to recommend an objective and
transparent process for deciding what constitutes sufficient funding for
S4C, based on a new remit.
S4C recommends that the funding principles put forward by the
European Broadcasting Union are adopted in relation to S4C. These are:
- stable and adequate
- independent from political interference
- fair and justifiable
- transparent and accountable
The process for defining S4C’s overall funding needs should also include
consideration of the following factors:
- Audience expectations
- The availability of Welsh language content on media platforms
- Comparative costs of content creation and rights acquisition
- S4C’s own efficiency
- The principle of “read across” to the licence fee
- Inflation and other cost pressures
Appropriate Sources of Support
A change in remit to become a 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 the back-bone of our public service will be publicly
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. S4C will continue to effectively access this important
source of funding, while maintaining our independence.
With licence fee funding channelled through the BBC, maintaining a
funding link with the UK Government, via the DCMS, has been vital for
our continued independence and for our ability to carry out our Welsh
Plurality of funding remains beneficial and a principle to be safeguarded
for the future. Any future funding options must maintain S4C’s status
as an independent, trusted and impartial content provider.
Chapter 4: Accountability, Governance and Regulation
In this chapter we do not put forward a fixed corporate view as to
the best accountability, governance and regulation structures for
the future. Instead, we identify the elements which we believe to be
fundamental to support S4C’s ambition for the future and our role in
the lives of people in Wales, the UK and throughout the world.
S4C suggests that the elements are as follows:
- S4C exists as an independent organisation to provide television and
media services in the Welsh language and to collaborate with a wide
range of partners in the content industry.
- S4C should have a revised remit, which should include the specific
duty of providing Welsh language television and media services
for the audience across the UK; and provides us with the ability to
adapt and develop our service provision as technology and user
- S4C is funded primarily by public funds but has the ability to
undertake commercial activities through subsidiary companies which
may not, however, draw on public funds.
- S4C has the ability to exercise powers to borrow funds for defined
purposes within limits set out by the Secretary of State and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer.
- The processes by which S4C accounts for its use of public funds and
for delivery of its remit are appropriate and clear.
- The processes by which decisions are reached as to what constitutes
sufficient funding for S4C to fulfil it’s remit are appropriate and clear.
- Accountability to Ofcom for most regulatory matters (with the
exception of certain specific subjects, such as language guidelines and
policies) is confirmed.
- Non-executive appointees, fulfilling a broad range of criteria related
to the new remit, should represent a clear majority of the governing
body or Board.
- The appointment of such non-executives should be made via a
transparent public appointments process.
- The Chief Executive should be appointed by the non-executive
members of the Board.
- The Board should be responsible for ensuring appropriate, highquality
corporate governance arrangements, in line with UK best
- The Board should be responsible for implementing an appropriate
process for evaluation and reporting on service performance
measured against objectives.
In S4C: Pushing the Boundaries, we have set out an achievable vision
for the next ten years.
In order to deliver the vision, S4C needs:
- an agreement that it is right for S4C to want to be a Public Service
Media provider in the Welsh language, and not simply a broadcaster
- a recognition of what that implies and the benefits it can deliver; and
- a process for defining the funding requirement.
We look forward to taking part in the public discussion which we hope
the review, and this vision for the future of S4C, will bring about.