THE UK Government has outlined its vision for broadcasting in the UK in proposed legislation that could have a far-reaching impact on S4C.

Nadine Dorries, The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, has published the white paper which outlines “the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector” in the UK.

While the focus has, in recent weeks, been on the white paper’s plans for the privatisation of Channel 4, it details changes that will impact S4C. 

The main points in relation to S4C and Wales:  

  • Make the importance of programmes broadcast in the UK’s indigenous regional and minority languages clear in legislation. 
  • Update S4C’s public service remit to include digital and online services. 
  • Legislate to support S4C and the BBC in moving away from the current framework requiring the BBC to provide S4C with a specific number of hours of television programming, allowing them to agree to an alternative arrangement that better suits the evolving broadcasting landscape. 
  • Introduce a new prominence regime for on-demand television. Ensuring prominence for S4C on these services. 
  • Supporting the British Film Commission to facilitate the growth of seven geographic production hubs – including one in each nation – and numerous new studio developments all across the UK. 

The document secures S4C’s financial future. A review of the licence fee funding model will be carried out ahead of the BBC’s next charter period, to be confirmed by 2027.

Dorries has said licence fee is “completely outdated” and told The Spectator: “We are going to very soon announce that we are going to be looking very seriously about how we fund the BBC.

“We are ready to implement a new way of funding the BBC.

“We’re going to be looking at how Ofcom hold the BBC to account and then very shortly after that we will be announcing other measures that we are going to put into place to start looking at how the BBC will be funded in the future so that we are well in time to have that in place for the Charter renewal.”

The DCMs announced in January that S4C would be funded fully from the license fee for the next six years, £88.8 million a year for the next two years, with an increase in line with inflation from then on.

The Westminster Government will also provide an additional £7.5 million a year with the specific aim of enabling S4C to distribute content across digital platforms.  

Changes in the way audiences, young and old, access and consume content, pose a specific threat to S4C as they face increasing competition for audiences.  

This week's announcement that Nordic streaming service Viaplay has won the rights to broadcast Wales football games, and its suggestion that it will produce its own Welsh language commentary, has also demonstrated that the channel is no longer the only outlet for Welsh language content.

Last year Amazon Prime commissioned its own Welsh language commentary for Wales rugby games it held the rights to rather than sharing them with S4C for Welsh language commentary.

Despite broadcasting not being devolved, the Welsh Government, as part of the partnership deal between it and Plaid Cymru is committed to setting up a Shadow Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales. 

Cymdeithas yr Iaith is calling for responsibilities over broadcasting to be devolved from Westminster to the Senedd. 

The UK Government said its white paper is aimed at implementing broadcasting reforms to “create a new golden age of British TV and help the nation’s public service broadcasters thrive.”

The document did not provide further details on the BBC’s funding reforms.