Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Letter to Welsh MPs on S4C
To all Welsh MPs
I am writing to you to ask you to support the campaign to safeguard the future of the only Welsh-language broadcasting channel in the world. A lot is at stake for the Welsh language and I hope you will agree with me that this issue transcends party politics.
A strong, independent S4C is of vital importance to the survival of the Welsh language. This is especially the case in those areas where there has been resurgence in the language, as evidenced by the surge in demand for Welsh medium education. In many of these households S4C provides, through its excellent children’s service Cyw, the only opportunity to hear Welsh spoken outside of the classroom.
There is every reason to be alarmed about the future of Welsh language broadcasting. Firstly, S4C faces a cut of 40% in real terms to its budget. There is not a single television channel in existence that would find it easy to cope with such a devastating financial hit. With S4C due to be absorbed by the BBC under the clandestine funding arrangements thrashed out between the corporation and the Westminster coalition, there is also a real threat to the autonomy of the channel.
Furthermore, the Westminster coalition is planning to give ministers the powers to shut down the channel. There is simply no guaranteed provision for S4C beyond 2015.
Anyone with a desire to preserve and encourage the Welsh language will, I hope, support the campaign to secure:
(1) Complete management and editorial independence for S4C without any interference by the BBC or the Government enshrined in statute.
(2) An independent funding formula for the Welsh language channel based on inflation and enshrined in statute.
(3) A levy on private broadcasters drawing on best practice in other countries in order to add to the resources available to the channel.
(4) Close collaboration between S4C and the Welsh Government to ensure, where possible, synergies in their investment in the media, such as the Welsh Government's investment in Golwg 360, education resources, and local radio.
The ‘Save S4C’ campaign is not about calling for the status quo to remain. There is an almost universal recognition that changes need to be made in a wide range of areas to improve S4C. Scrutiny, management structures, its digital platform, quality of programming and the best use of Welsh creative talent are particularly pressing. S4C’s future should, in my view, be the subject of a public review undertaken by the Welsh Government, given that the Westminster coalition has refused to be held to account for the changes they have pushed through. Until that review comes, we must do all we can to make sure that we still have a Welsh broadcasting channel to protect.
In addition to lobbying the Westminster Coalition Government, I have decided to withhold payment for my television licence. While this form of protest and the potential consequences may not be to your liking, I hope you can appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue. I hope therefore you will contribute to the campaign to protect Welsh language broadcasting by working to take S4C out of Schedules 3 and 4 of the Public Bodies Bill currently under scrutiny. Please consider – and ask your colleagues on the Public Bodies Bill Scrutiny Committee to also consider - supporting Amendments 10 and 38 and to vote against New Clause 2 at the Committee’s meeting tomorrow (Thursday 15 September).
Leanne Wood AM.