S4C PRAISED FOR EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS
Professor Elan Closs Stephens, S4C’s Chair, has welcomed the conclusions drawn by an independent review that S4C delivers its remit in an efficient and effective way.
Commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at the request of the S4C Authority, and conducted by Roger Laughton, the review also recognises the important role S4C has to play in developing the social, cultural and economic agendas of Wales.
Acknowledging S4C’s own attempts to attract additional sources of revenue, the review reports that co-productions add value to S4C and that SDN, the digital multiplex operator of which S4C owns a third, is a valuable asset. S4C’s level of overhead cost is also lower than its national public service competitors.
Looking forward to the digital-only age, the review highlights the challenges S4C will face when it ceases to show Channel 4 programmes and broadcasts wholly in Welsh.
The review argues that the Government should consider financial support – a digital dividend – in the transitional period before switch-off when both analogue and digital services have to be maintained.
It supports the conclusions of S4C’s internal review, published earlier this year, in particular the need to sustain programme quality in peak hours, develop interactive services and ensure S4C digidol is as widely available in Wales as other public service broadcasters. It also recommends that S4C should operate a single core service after analogue switch-off with a facility, on occasion, to split the service.
The relationship with the BBC is given particular consideration. In the context of the BBC’s Charter Review, the review calls for S4C and the BBC to strengthen their relationship and among other suggestions argues that the value of the BBC’s contribution to S4C should be increased in line with the growth in the TV licence fee since 1997.
The review also calls for S4C to work closer with the National Assembly for Wales and other partners to reinforce cultural and economic policies.
S4C has already launched its new programme strategy which places a strong emphasis on creative excellence and definitive programming.
Professor Stephens says: “I am enormously encouraged by the review’s conclusions and warmly welcome the important recommendations Roger Laughton makes. We are pleased the review concurs that S4C – and its programme producers – operate in an effective and efficient way and we look forward to exploring with the Government the scope for S4C to receive a digital dividend. This could play a critical rôle in easing our passage through the process of analogue switch-off, when S4C will lose its historic connection with Channel 4.
“Roger Laughton has reaffirmed our own belief that a range of new creative partnerships needs to be at the heart of the programme service we want to deliver. Perhaps the most important of these is the relationship with the BBC. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the BBC to modernise that relationship as part of Charter Review. We will reflect the report’s other conclusions in a revised corporate plan to be published later this year.”
Huw Jones, S4C’s Chief Executive, adds: “This important review highlights the key questions facing S4C as it moves towards a digital-only future.
“The review supports the early decision we made to invest in the digital service and the efforts made to look at new commercial means of generating income. It emphasises, however, that there are still difficult financial and operational considerations ahead, to be addressed by S4C, the BBC and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
“The Channel’s new five-year Programme Strategy already deals with some of the issues raised in the review and we look forward to giving further consideration to how we apply other recommendations.”
(i) The publication of Roger Laughton’s review was announced by Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in a statement to Parliament. The Secretary of State announced the terms of reference of Roger Laughton’s review in March following a request from the S4C Authority that a review should be undertaken. The independent review conducted by Roger Laughton was able to take as its starting point the conclusions of the internal review conducted by the S4C Authority (‘A Welsh Language Television Service Fit for the 21st Century?’) published in March 2004.