S4C at 40: Plaid Cymru call on UK Government to provide ‘fairer settlement’
‘Channel continues to play central role as key promoter of Welsh’
On the 40th birthday of Welsh language television channel S4C today (Tuesday 1 November 2022), Plaid Cymru have urged the new Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Secretary Michelle Donelan MP to “commit to providing further resource to S4C”, and “a fairer settlement” to public service broadcasters whose work contributes to the goal of securing a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
In a letter to the Secretary of State, Plaid Cymru’s DCMS spokesperson Ben Lake MP and Welsh language and culture spokesperson Heledd Fychan MS say that S4C has been “at the heart of Welsh cultural life” for four decades and continues to play a “central role as a key promoter of the Welsh language to new audiences”.
The spokespersons reiterate their party’s position that it is only by devolving broadcasting to Wales that we can “safeguard the long-term future of our treasured national institution and provide fair funding for Welsh language broadcasting more broadly.” As long as the UK Government hold power over Welsh broadcasting, however, they have a duty to provide a fair settlement, according to Mr Lake and Ms Fychan.
S4C was only established as a result of many years of protest. The Conservatives, having promised to deliver a Welsh language channel in their 1979 manifesto, reneged on that promise once they gained power. It was only after the then Plaid Cymru President and the party’s first MP Gwynfor Evans threatened to go on hunger strike that Margaret Thatcher was forced to deliver her initial promise. The channel started broadcasting on November 1, 1982.
Mr Lake and Ms Fychan write:
“You embark on your role at a critical juncture for the world’s first and only Welsh-language television channel, S4C, which celebrates its 40th birthday today.
“For four decades, the channel has been at the heart of Welsh cultural life, giving a global platform to the language and giving hundreds of thousands of people access to news, entertainment, drama, and documentaries in Welsh. Wales’s first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1958 will be broadcast live on the channel this month, further enhancing its central role as a key promoter of the Welsh language to new audiences.
“The recent freeze in the BBC licence fee and continued uncertainty over the BBC’s funding after 2027 is further evidence of why the devolution of broadcasting is the only way to safeguard the long-term future of our treasured national institution and provide fair funding for Welsh language broadcasting more broadly.
“However, soaring levels of inflation are already severely impacting on the ongoing budgets of broadcasters. To reflect these financial pressures and in recognition of the need to enhance and accelerate its digital offer, we urge you to commit to providing further resource to S4C, and a fairer settlement to public service broadcasters whose work also contributes to the shared goal of securing a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
“Your predecessor said S4C plays a unique critical role in promoting the Welsh language and in supporting a wider public service and broadcasting landscape. We trust that you will act to reflect her words.”