Welsh language S4C warns digital funding gap threatens production jobs

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Dec 6 18:07:02 UTC 2005

S4C warns digital funding gap threatens production jobs

Dan Milmo
Tuesday December 6, 2005


S4C, the government-funded Welsh-language broadcaster, has warned that it
could face a multi-million-pound funding gap by 2009 if it does not
receive further subsidies for digital broadcasting and new media ventures.
The warning follows a similar call by Channel 4, the publicly owned
broadcaster, which said last year it might need financial assistance to
plug an estimated 100m deficit by 2012. Iona Jones, the newly appointed
chief executive of S4C, said jobs would be at risk in the Welsh
independent production sector without the extra support. The sector has
benefited from an overhaul of the way S4C commissions programmes and
employs at least 3,000 people.

Ms Jones told the Guardian that the relationship with producers would be
eroded without extra funding to subsidise S4C's contribution to switching
off the analogue TV signal in Wales and to assist the move into new media,
such as broadband internet. "It would undermine the creative sector in
Wales. The whole infrastructure would be under threat," she said. It would
also be a backwards step for the Labour government's devolution policy and
for the Welsh Assembly, which is expected to gain more powers under the
Better Government for Wales bill, she said. Ms Jones will outline her case
today at a Commons select committee inquiry into the cost of the digital

S4C's main source of funding is an annual grant of 86m from the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport, supplemented by programming worth 22m from
the BBC and about 10m from commercial sales. The broadcaster is at a
critical point in its 23-year history as it prepares to switch to showing
programmes only in Welsh when the analogue signal is switched off in
Wales, in 2009. Its analogue schedule is supplemented by Channel 4
programming that brings in viewers and advertising. As soon as Wales goes
fully digital S4C will need to replace the Channel 4 programmes with more
Welsh-language shows.

Ms Jones added that the cost of financing the switch to digital, involving
the conversion of more than 100 broadcast masts, would "jeopardise"
programme investment. "I will be looking for further financial support,
either directly or indirectly. That may or may not be the BBC or the
government," she said.

Ms Jones said the size of the funding gap would depend on how much
assistance S4C received for the digital switchover. The broadcaster is
also seeking to secure its financial future by thrashing out a new
partnership agreement with the BBC, which supplies it with 10 hours a week
of Welsh-language programming. Ms Jones said the discussions with the BBC,
which could yet be asked to subsidise S4C's digital costs on top of the
new agreement, were "very positive".

"It could form the basis for an innovative strategic partnership," she

Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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