Maintaining S4C's independence is vital for the future of Welsh Language broadcasting, and the media in Wales, and achieving that needs careful consideration according to the channel’s Chief Executive Ian Jones.
It appears the system created to fund S4C from the Licence fee is facing fundamental change over the coming months, in the wake of structural changes at the BBC. The Culture Media and Sport department of the UK Government is considering the recommendations of the Clementi Report on the future governance of the BBC. If the report’s recommendations are accepted, the BBC Trust is set to be disbanded, and the BBC will be managed by a Unitary Board.
But speaking to the Westminster Media Forum in London, Ian Jones said that the disbanding of the Trust and creation of a Unitary Board in the BBC would mean that the current funding arrangements that ensure S4C's independence would not continue.
S4C Chief Executive Ian Jones said; "In term of S4C's independence, there are significant risks, in particular the recommendations of the Sir David Clementi report which recently suggested the creation of a BBC Unitary Board.
"We must be clear that the current funding arrangement for S4C would not apply in those circumstances without undermining S4C's independence as a broadcaster. It is difficult to see how a body allocating funding on the one hand could be both the arbiter and beneficiary of any funding decision.
"This will need careful consideration over the coming months – and recognition that S4C is a unique and independent entity which was created to provide Public Service Broadcasting in the Welsh Language."
The discussion, held as part of the Westminster Media Forum's BBC charter review series, focused on how Public Service Broadcasters can best serve the audience. In his speech, Ian Jones emphasised that PSBs could do more to work together to provide a complete and satisfactory service for the public, and that S4C's role as an independent broadcaster was key to achieving this.
Ian Jones says; "S4C is Public Service broadcasting in its purest form, as without it there would be no service for a Welsh speaking population in their own language. But the channel is also a key component of the UK's broadcasting and PSB landscape. It is extremely important for plurality not only in Wales but in the UK as a whole."