Following a groundswell of demand from people in Wales, S4C was created in 1982 by the UK Government as the fourth British TV channel in Wales. Welsh speakers had long felt underserved in the British media and the arrival of S4C, with a clear and distinct public service remit to provide a full Welsh language broadcast television service, went a long way to addressing concerns and meeting demand.
S4C would not have existed had it not been for the voices of Welsh speakers, and since 1982 we have constantly listened to our audiences, working tirelessly to meet their expectations, to deliver a wide range of content in the Welsh language and to be relevant to their lives – all within the parameters of our original remit, periodic budget cuts and funding uncertainty.
We have not done this alone. Our key partners in this venture have been the BBC, ITV Wales and the independent production sector in Wales, whose creativity and talent, between them, are responsible for producing the wide range of programmes and the variety of voices which define our service.
Since 2013, our new relationship with the BBC, built on shared public service objectives, has created new opportunities for creative collaboration, enabled us to make S4C content available on BBC iPlayer, and ensured access to a crucial source of funding.
The last external review of S4C took place in 2004. A wide-ranging assessment of its purposes and needs is therefore overdue and to be greatly welcomed. This document sets out S4C’s vision for the next ten years and will be a key element of our submission to the independent review.
Welsh is Britain’s oldest indigenous language. As such it has great cultural, social and historical significance and we are proud of the central part that we play in allowing it to flourish. For over 30 years we have provided constant opportunities for people to hear and learn Welsh, and to be informed and entertained in Welsh. As a result, Welsh continues to be an active, vital, everyday language of contemporary social and commercial life in Wales. Today, our core audience is still mostly Welsh speaking - fluent and less-fluent Welsh speakers, living in Wales, elsewhere in the UK and even overseas.
Our investment in content creation has brought into being a thriving independent production sector which sustains jobs and economic growth across the country.
Continued UK Government support for S4C, and the widespread cross party support enjoyed by the channel, ensure Welsh speakers can feel their needs are being met in modern Britain.
However, 35 years on from when we launched as a public service broadcaster, the world in which we operate has changed beyond recognition. Television in its linear form remains vitally important, but the proliferation of ways in which people can now consume content, in various forms and across numerous devices in our connected world, means a broadcaster must aim for ubiquity. To compete today we need to provide different types of content that can be viewed whenever and wherever the audience wants to view it and in whichever ways, and on whatever devices, they choose. This is a basic expectation from audiences in the modern media world and one that our current remit constrains us from delivering.
Our audience today – and indeed tomorrow – is not the same as the TV audience in the 1980s. It is less homogenous and courted by hundreds of different TV and online channels. It is more content-savvy, constantly engaged with the latest technology, and has come to expect more.
S4C is passionately committed to being a creative, competitive and commercially minded provider of compelling, varied, entertaining and informative Welsh language content for many decades to come. We have a clear, workable vision for a future that is driven by the needs of a diversified audience and which has new types of content and new content delivery systems at its core. But we believe that the step-changes required to deliver this vision, as well as to create a closer two-way relationship with existing and new audiences, will require a clear, long-term view of our funding and accountability and a long-overdue update of our remit. We want to evolve from being a traditional 20th century public service broadcaster into a provider of contemporary public service media content in the connected world of the 21st century.
S4C has achieved a great deal in the past 35 years. We are ready for new challenges and keen to deliver so much more for our audience, the community, the economy and the creative industries in Wales.