Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 614-i i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Welsh Affairs Committee

S4C

Tuesday 30 November 2010

CHRIS WOOLARD, rhodri williams, gareth williams and iestyn garlick

Michael birtwistle, david donovan and hywel williams MP

meri huws, meirion prys jones, colin nosworthy and menna machreth

Evidence heard in Public Questions 61- 164

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 30 November 2010

Members present:

David T. C. Davies (Chair)

Stuart Andrew

Guto Bebb

Alun Cairns

Geraint Davies

Jonathan Edwards

Mrs Siân James

Susan Elan Jones

Karen Lumley

Jessica Morden

Owen Smith

Mr Mark Williams

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Chris Woolard and Rhodri Williams, Ofcom, and Iestyn Garlick and Gareth Williams, TAC, gave evidence.

Q61 Chair: Bore da a diolch am ddod i’r Pwyllgor heddiw. Good morning and thank you for coming to the Committee today. For the record, I wonder if you gentlemen would very kindly give us your name and position. Although we know each other, it is good for the record of proceedings.

Rhodri Williams: Rhodri Williams. I am Ofcom’s Director for Wales.

Chris Woolard: I am Chris Woolard. I am a partner at Ofcom with overall responsibility for our operations in the nations.

Gareth Williams: I am Gareth Williams. I am a member of the TAC Task Force and I am also Chief Executive of Rondo Media.

Iestyn Garlick: I am Iestyn Garlick. I am Chairman of TAC and I also run an independent company called Antena.

Q62 Chair: Thank you very much. I am David Davies, Chairman of the Committee. Thank you very much for coming. As you see, we have translation facilities so everyone is welcome to speak in English or Welsh as they prefer.

Could I start with a quick question perhaps to Mr Williams? Given the events of the last few weeks, can you tell us, in your opinion, whether you think S4C is being well run as an organisation at the moment?

Rhodri Williams: Clearly, what has come out in public is there for all to see. From our position, the decisions affecting the future of S4C’s funding, its governance arrangements and its management are not, as it stands, issues for Ofcom. These are matters for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Our role in relation to S4C is clearly set out in the Communications Act. There are specific duties that we have to undertake in relation to S4C; that is what we do, and that is all. I don’t think it is for us to comment on management issues.

Q63 Chair: Thank you for that, Mr Williams. While you are answering these questions, and very diplomatically, if I may say so-though it is hardly a ringing endorsement of S4C-Geraint Talfan Davies said on Sunday, I think, that Ofcom have to carry some of the blame for what has been going on. What do you actually make of that comment?

Chris Woolard: I think it’s worth being clear about our particular regulatory responsibilities. They are essentially to set a number of potential targets or quotas in relation to S4C, including the amount of independent production they take. They, then, are about the regulation of S4C’s output and programmes in terms of the broadcasting standards they meet. The Communications Act basically stops there in terms of Ofcom’s role.

The other matters around the management of S4C and its conduct are essentially for the S4C Authority. From our perspective, the issue that we are concerned about is whether S4C is continuing to maintain its performance in terms of output in relation to those particular quotas and targets, and at this moment in time it is.

Q64 Chair: So you wouldn’t agree with what Geraint Talfan Davies said on the radio then? You are aware of the comments, I presume?

Chris Woolard: Yes, we are aware of the comments.

Chair: And you wouldn’t agree?

Chris Woolard: I don’t think we would agree with them, no.

Q65 Chair: Has Ofcom been approached by DCMS or the Executive of the S4C Board at all?

Chris Woolard: No, we haven’t.

Q66 Chair: Thank you for that. Finally, perhaps I could ask Mr Garlick whether TAC feel that S4C has been well run recently.

Iestyn Garlick: Clearly, there are serious problems at the moment within the Authority on a daytoday basis. As a trade organisation dealing with them, we don’t seem to have any major problems. That said, back in May, when we started voicing our concerns about the way S4C was being run-this was long before the Comprehensive Spending Review-we did have concerns, and those concerns are still there. But, that said, an awful lot has changed, as you, Mr Chairman, are aware, in the last few months and weeks, if not days.

Chair: Indeed. It is changing so fast that we can barely keep track at the moment.

Q67 Mr Williams: I want to turn specifically to viewing figures, as a start. It has been claimed that the BARB audience figures for Wales, used by S4C-and, indeed, Ofcom-are very unreliable. How unreliable do you feel they are, particularly in measuring the reach and share of Welsh language programmes, and the viewing patterns of Welsh speakers generally?

Chris Woolard: It is worth remembering that BARB is basically the industry standard, so every single broadcaster uses BARB in order to get a sense of their reach and share of the audience; and we use that too in terms of our own statistical reporting. It is pretty robust, in terms of looking at coverage across the UK. In particular, in the case of Wales and Welsh speakers, BARB also adds what is known as a boost to its research.

Q68 Mr Williams: How big is that boost?

Chris Woolard: The overall panel for the UK is around 5,100 people at any one point in time. In terms of the boost, it is 400 for the S4C region, so the area covered by S4C, and then there is a further specific boost of 200 Welsh speakers.

Q69 Mr Williams: How well do you feel those align with independent producers’ knowledge of their audience?

Chris Woolard: Individual programme by programme?

Mr Williams: It can be, yes.

Chris Woolard: On the whole-although I will let these gentlemen answer for themselves-certainly my experience from the BBC was that independent producers and the people scheduling channels are using the same underlying data in terms of BARB itself.

Gareth Williams: May I come in here? I feel I am in agreement with what Ron Jones said at this session last week. There are some irregularities and inconsistencies within the viewing figures pattern; and I think a lot of the negative press, which kicked off a lot of the things to do with issues with S4C, was regarding the viewing figures for children’s programming and pre-school programmes. Also their service, Clic, is growing in popularity now. This is a facility to view again. I think those figures aren’t actually measured, are they?

Chris Woolard: No, they are not.

Gareth Williams: So I think these things need to be considered now if we are determining S4C’s future against a certain individual set of figures.

Q70 Mr Williams: Absolutely, and putting it into the broader context of policy towards the language, that is an absolutely critical feature. I can testify to four youngsters in my household who certainly never figured in the BARB figures, or anything else for that matter, and yet it has been a huge success for S4C. Going back to the BARB figures, has S4C become overly reliant on them?

Rhodri Williams: I don’t think it is fair to say that S4C have become overly reliant on them in that they are the industry figures. There are no other figures that compare with them in terms of the volume and size of the sample. I think people would say, "Wouldn’t it be better to have figures that gave you a bigger sample in Wales?" If you are undertaking market research of any kind in Wales, it is fair to say that quite often questions arise around the sample size. Obviously, if you had a bigger sample, it would give you more robust and more reliable figures, but someone would have to pay for that. I think the situation that S4C are in is that, although they might welcome having a larger sample, they are not inclined to spend more money on that which could be spent on programmes. As Gareth said, it is the use that has been made of some of these figures in the press-sometimes by people who don’t understand that, for instance, young children are not actually counted as part of the panel-which has led to the difficulty, not the figures themselves.

Q71 Mr Williams: You are right, and I think there was a characterisation we used in this Committee in the past to look, for instance, at viewing figures of the National Assembly. If you compare that with the success of the children’s programming, there is potentially an omission at the very least in those figures. Do you think, there has been an unfair portrayal by S4C of those figures? Have they described them fully and fairly or have they been selective in their use of those figures?

Chair: Perhaps you could give a quick answer to that one

Rhodri Williams: I don’t think they have been unfair. I think they highlight their most successful programmes, as do BBC One, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, and obviously don’t attract attention or don’t advertise the less successful figures.

Q72 Mr Williams: According to S4C, nonWelsh speakers amount to 57% of the channel’s average weekly reach. Do you think that figure is accurate and how do you explain the success of S4C in attracting nonWelsh speakers?

Rhodri Williams: I don’t have any reason to think that it is not an accurate figure, and certainly it is a long time since I actually worked in the business, but, when I did, I knew that, yes, you do attract lots of people who don’t necessarily understand Welsh fluently. Some of them may be learning or have other people in the house who do speak Welsh or make use of the subtitling services that are available. So that doesn’t come as a surprise.

Q73 Guto Bebb: I would like to ask another question to Ofcom to clarify the actual use of this word "reach". During the lobbying that has been taking place behind the scenes here in Westminster, I spoke to a very senior member of the coalition Government with a background in television and he said to me that "reach" are the figures that we use when we want to persuade the advertising industry that we are actually reaching an audience on their behalf. So could you clarify how do Ofcom actually look at "reach"? Do you take that to be an indicative figure or are there question marks around it?

Chris Woolard: Essentially, all these figures, given they are based on a survey panel, will always be, to some extent, indicative. You will never replicate what 26 million households are doing at any one point in time. But they are usually a reasonably accurate reflection of what the audience’s pattern of behaviour and consumption of particular programmes may or may not be.

Q74 Guto Bebb: Therefore, if there has been a decline from about 23% to about 17% in S4C’s reach, do you see that as potentially problematic?

Chris Woolard: I think you have to remember what else is going on at the same time within those figures. Over that time sequence, you had a shift in the strategy of S4C in the way the channel operates from being a mix of Channel 4 programmes in English and programming in Welsh to essentially a Welshorientated language service. There are things that you ought to look at alongside that 23% to 17% number as well to get a sense of what is going on. One of the measures that is quite useful is to look at their share in peak time, so, in other words, in that peak-time slot, what is going on? Between 2005 and 2009 that has remained pretty constant at about 3%. If you want to try and compare that to some other channels, for example, BBC News 24 gets about 1.1 % share in peak. So that is not an unreasonable number.

Gareth Williams: I think it has done really well to hold its position, its share, in those peak hours. Also, the 2009 report that S4C submitted shows a pattern in the top 30 programmes there: 21 of those are for sporting events and events such as music concerts. Obviously there is a pattern there that these are being enjoyed and appreciated by a nonWelsh speaking audience as well. I think that is something we need to bear in mind.

Iestyn Garlick: The point I wanted to make quickly was that S4C does invest substantial sums in sport, and I would imagine maybe last Saturday afternoon an awful lot of people would have watched S4C-at least those who didn’t like tennis.

Q75 Guto Bebb: Yes. I would argue, therefore, that there has been possibly a lack of explanation of these figures because, undoubtedly, the viewing figures have been used to portray S4C as a failing channel. As an industry, you would contest the perception that the channel is failing?

Iestyn Garlick: I think I would contest it. The reach is always going to be between 0 and 500,000. It is never going to be more, unless there are people watching sport. The success that I see on the streets is people who talk to you, people who discuss television programmes, people who are passionate about S4C. I would contest something that Professor Hargreaves was said last week, Mr Chairman, that there was no discussion about S4C or S4C’s programmes on the BBC or on Radio Cymru. We have had nothing but S4C for the last few weeks and some of the gentlemen here have spent an awful lot of time on the radio-maybe even too much time.

Chair: Not necessarily for the right reasons. Thank you very much.

Q76 Jessica Morden: What is your perception about what viewers think about the quality of S4C’s output? Does audience research point to S4C viewers wanting more or less of certain types of programmes?

Gareth Williams: There is firm evidence that the S4C audience enjoys feeling that S4C is part of their communities. Several of the more successful recent strands have travelled across Wales, but haven’t stayed in one location. They have travelled across Wales; they have covered events large and small in Wales and involved local communities in those events. I think S4C has been very successful at pursuing that policy of involving the community in its programming because they are not just viewers then; they are contributors to the service and they then take a level of ownership of it. I think that has been a very successful part of their remit.

Iestyn Garlick: I think the audience would agree that S4C might be stretching itself trying to fill all these hours for the money available. The audience might be prepared to accept fewer hours at a higher quality.

Q77 Jessica Morden: What about repeats? Do you have any view on the level of repeats?

Iestyn Garlick: It is generally accepted that there are way too many repeats, but the problem is that, if you are committed to filling the hours, then I am afraid repeats will have to be there, as on every other channel in the UK.

Gareth Williams: There are many ways of viewing repeats as well. There’s actual repeats, there’s reversioning and there’s archiving. Of course, S4C has a wealth of archive material and has started a slot recently, S4C Aur-Gold-which is a chance for viewers to revisit some of these archives; and some of those are performing remarkably well. So I don’t think "repeats" is as simple as it looks.

Q78 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) One quick point. Regarding connecting with the channel’s viewers, would moving the channel out of Cardiff to the Welsh-speaking areas be an option you would welcome?

Q79 Gareth Williams: (Translation) I believe it makes a lot of sense that S4C is very close to its community. S4C does have permanent offices in Caernarfon. I think that S4C could make more use of that office. S4C could make more use of the sessions they have with the audience councils. They have a very good response when they do those. Regarding the location of S4C, there are several options, but the important thing, I believe, is that S4C communicates, and communicates clearly, with everyone that needs the channel, including the viewers.

Q80 Mrs James: (Translation) This is a question for TAC. How important for your members is S4C, or how dependent are your members on S4C?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) A number of companies are dependent on S4C. I don’t believe that that, as a statement, should be criticised. A number of companies in England are mainly dependent on the BBC or Channel 4, but I would say that within the last few years the stability that S4C gives those companies in terms of the work that it provides has enabled many of them to win very significant commissions on the networks, including international commissions. You see companies such as Dinamo succeeding in the international market. Tinopolis, of course, owns companies that produce everything from Question Time to the new Karl Pilkington series. Telesgôp has had a network commission for BBC 4. Boomerang produces Freeports on 4. There are a whole host of examples that I can give you. I would argue that the sector is in quite a healthy situation.

Q81 Mrs James: (Translation) So you don’t accept what Ron Jones said last week?

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) If I can just come in very quickly, the point is that there are a number of producers in Wales who have decided to work through the medium of Welsh. To whom will they sell those Welsh language programmes if not to S4C?

Q82 Mrs James: (Translation) That’s a good point. So you don’t actually accept what Ron Jones said last week? He said that you don’t have the right to depend as much on the taxpayers.

Gareth Williams: (Translation) I think the response he gave was that we couldn’t take our companies for granted and that they couldn’t expect to be wholly dependent on S4C.

Q83 Mrs James: (Translation) This question is for all of you. We have to save 10% within the sector. Do you accept that we can do that over the next year?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) There is a way in which the sector can offer savings. Certainly there’s a way for S4C themselves to make savings-they said that in the report that they provided to DCMS. It’s easier for a sector to offer savings when they know that there’s something sustainable beyond just one year. You have to look at more long-term plans if you are looking at savings because you want to offer savings while also protecting and maintaining your business, your employees and the product, of course, which is part of the company.

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) The companies have been flexible from the outset in making savings, and that has happened for a number of years now. I am sure that it is possible for us to make further savings, but S4C also has to make its own savings. It is not just up to the sector to make the savings and take the burden.

Q84 Alun Cairns : (Translation) Can I go back to an earlier question about the location of S4C? You said, Mr Williams, that it perhaps would be beneficial for S4C to be based somewhere else, as Ron Jones said yesterday, but in the current economic climate, is that realistic financially? It is so costly to move a centre. The second point is: does that create more uncertainty for the staff-we have to be fair to them-who have so much uncertainty at the moment?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) I would agree with you, Mr Cairns. I think that spending an awful lot of money now on relocation and costs associated with that is not a wise thing to do in the short term. However, certainly S4C should be looking at what kind of relationship it has as a channel with the west of Wales and north Wales in particular.

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) The fundamental point here is that S4C needs to move out physically-not necessarily the offices, but the people need to move out of Llanishen; they need to go to Llanelli, Aberystwyth and Caernarfon and speak to and be part of their audience.

Q85 Alun Cairns : Can I bring you back to your paper? Your submission argues a number of specific suggestions about improving S4C’s structure and approach to programming. It talks about a broader commissioning structure enabling new companies to break through. Can you explain a bit further what you mean by that, Mr Williams?

Gareth Williams: Yes. I think that the current editorial system-if you like, the system that goes from the point where they decide on a commission and on a budget for that commission to the point of delivery and point of broadcast-should be much simpler. I think that it is quite time-consuming and involves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the sector and the broadcaster. I think it’s only a process; that could be simplified. If anything is a barrier, I think, for smaller companies and individual producers coming through, it is getting into that process and understanding it efficiently enough to be able to gain a commission from it. I think they absolutely need to look at simplifying that.

Q86 Alun Cairns : Would you contend that, in the past, before strategic relationships were established, an awful lot of money went to a large number of smaller companies that simply didn’t result in programmes, that didn’t go anywhere, and that that is, in this financial climate, completely unacceptable, and any talk of going back to that structure simply isn’t realistic?

Iestyn Garlick: Are you talking about development money?

Alun Cairns : Yes.

Iestyn Garlick: There might have been a time when S4C was spending an awful lot on development money and something might not have come to fruition. But sometimes you have to take a punt on things, and maybe in some cases you’re right that it didn’t work.

Q87 Alun Cairns : But in this financial climate, do you not think that that is unrealistic? As to the development money, I would have thought that the Auditor General would be pretty interested in how that was spent, because an awful lot of money went to a large number of small companies that simply didn’t result in any sort of programming. What sort of value is that for the viewer?

Iestyn Garlick: I would agree with you entirely in this financial climate, but I don’t think it is happening at the moment and I don’t think it has happened for quite a few years.

Chair: Did it happen a lot, Mr Garlick?

Iestyn Garlick: There was a lot of money spent on pilots.

Chair: Which never saw the light of day?

Iestyn Garlick: No, they didn’t. Many of them didn’t, but then some did and some are still there.

Gareth Williams: Just to add to that, I would say it is in the best interests of a broadcaster to look at a development strategy of some sort, to be able to invest in some areas. Drama, especially, is such a longterm investment for them that they need to get it right. To go back to your point about the development companies, that was, I think, in keeping with a pattern you were seeing across the UK in terms of consolidation happening within the industry. So I don’t think they should be too harshly criticised for that. But certainly we should see, in terms of that development fund, what came out of it.

Q88 Alun Cairns : Do you think that the S4C Authority has held management to account effectively over the last few years and do you think that the current oversight is sufficiently transparent?

Iestyn Garlick: I don’t think, as TAC , that we are really in a position to pass comment on the way the Authority runs itself. We deal with the commissioners within S4C, and our relationship with those commissioners is fine. I know what you are trying to get me to say, and-

Alun Cairns : Can I interrupt you because let’s not forget that the Head of Commissioning isn’t in post any more. So if you deal with commissioners, and it is relevant-

Iestyn Garlick: Geraint Rowlands, to be fair, has been appointed as Head of Commissioning.

Alun Cairns : But there was a strange departure of the Head of Commissioning, as well as the Chief Executive. Is the Authority running effectively or not?

Iestyn Garlick: It appears not.

Gareth Williams: I think there is a basic communication problem here, isn’t there? It’s found itself in a very difficult position. I can sympathise to a point with the Authority’s point of view as well, which is probably a combination of wanting to take a pragmatic view and involve itself in discussions with the relevant bodies and not quite knowing how to respond to the announcement of the money coming from the licence fee. I think it has found it hard to get a consensus on these very, very difficult issues. I think a lot of us in Wales are struggling with getting a consensus on this. Obviously, it has been in a very, very frail situation because it doesn’t have a permanent Chief Executive. As you said, it does not have a Director of Commissioning, and we are still waiting to see what the clear situation is with the Chairman of the Authority. It is in a difficult situation at the moment. There is no doubt about that.

Chair: Thank you for being probably as candid as you can be, considering your position.

Q89 Owen Smith: Obviously one of the things we are interested in, given the proposals from the government, is how the BBC and S4C might work together. Could I ask the gentlemen from TAC, in respect of commissioning, what differences you’ve discerned over the years between the way in which programmes are commissioned by S4C and the BBC and whether there has been a culture, if you like, of competition more than a culture of cooperation, as will now be necessary?

Gareth Williams: There certainly is a culture of competition, isn’t there, between S4C and the BBC? They have a unique relationship in being in a supplier relationship and in competition with each other. Moving forward now, I think there are ways of finding efficiencies. I can think of two recent events that were covered for Radio Cymru and for S4C, and there was some sharing of resources. In terms of sharing information, research, audience research and so on, they should absolutely work more closely together, but it is in the best interests of both to remain independent of each other as well, if you know what I mean.

Q90 Owen Smith: Do you think that, culturally, there is a difference between the two and a tension between the two? There are obviously a lot of people who work at S4C who worked hitherto at the BBC. These people are now going to have to work together. Does that give you any views as to how the financial arrangements ought to be established so that there is forced collaboration, if you like?

Gareth Williams: There is absolute difference in terms of cultural values. The BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation; S4C is a Welsh-language broadcaster. There is a world of difference between the two.

Iestyn Garlick: We are quite clear in TAC that we would like to see the money go direct to S4C and not via the BBC. If that happens, it could well cloud the issue and it could well then affect the independent sector quite severely. Although we will have to work together, S4C, TAC and the BBC-that seems to be the way we are going and we would be happy with that-we would like specific structures in place so that the issues will not be clouded.

Q91 Owen Smith: Can I unpack that a bit because obviously the suspicion will be that the reason that TAC-and the independent sector that relies on S4C-is keen to see that separation is that S4C is seen as a softer touch?

Iestyn Garlick: By TAC?

Owen Smith: By the independent sector in Wales, which is why they would be quite keen to see S4C in charge of the budget, which is what the Government is not proposing.

Iestyn Garlick: I have never thought of S4C as a soft touch and I can guarantee you that, with some of the very, very feisty and wild meetings that we have, arguing about terms of trade, etcetera, etcetera, I would hardly call them a soft touch. But you are welcome to come along.

Q92 Owen Smith: So why is it, in that case, so important that the financial separation be maintained?

Iestyn Garlick: Because there will, I suppose, be a suspicion that the BBC would keep some of the money themselves. There have been assurances that that is not going to happen, and one hopes that it will not happen, but we would like to see some kind of charter or statute or something concrete in place to guarantee that.

Gareth Williams: Let’s just put this into some sort of context as well in terms of the BBC and English language provision in Wales. There’s a 44% reduction over six years in terms of provision, so there is a limited amount of opportunity there. I think, as an independent sector where there are several opportunities within S4C, we don’t want to see those diminishing because it will impact adversely on the sector as a whole in Wales.

Q93 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) I just want to ask you a question about top-slicing, but in terms of the current recommendations about the partnership with the BBC, what are the main problems, or dangers, as you see them as an independent sector?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) I identify two things. I think we need to define more clearly what this independence is and how the relationship with the BBC works, and also we need to acknowledge that all correspondence currently between all Ministers, Sir Michael Lyons and John Walter Jones at S4C is talking about a situation which ends in 2015. S4C is coming up to celebrating 30 years of its existence. It deserves an existence far beyond 2015. I think that the answers which are going to work through over the next weeks and months have to tackle that directly and make sure that there is a long-term existence for the channel because it deserves that existence.

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) We are clear that the deal that is on the table is acceptable; it’s a deal that we can all work with, as long as we have independence and editorial rights, and that 100% of the funds come to the sector, as they currently do.

Q94 Alun Cairns : (Translation) Can I say that the Minister has clearly answered that? He repeated it in the House of Commons yesterday in answer to a question. So I don’t understand the point of all the protestations and complaints. (The speaker continued in English) There’s a guarantee-operational, editorial and 100% funding of the money going to the independent sector. (Translation) What else do you want?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) We want to see that in statute because what’s happening, Mr Cairns, is that there’s an interpretation of those statements that which can lead to a misinterpretation, if you like, and I think that that is perhaps where the complexity comes in.

Q95 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) I want to ask a question on the basis of what you’ve just said. What does operational independence for the channel mean to you? There’s a consensus about that, but what exactly does it mean to you?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) I would like to see it mean creative, editorial, financial and operational independence so that it encompasses the independence of the channel. I think S4C will benefit from having, say, someone from the BBC on a council or a board-that has happened before.

Q96 Chair: (Translation) It is possible to say that S4C is independent at the moment but it is accountable to DCMS. What’s the difference between DCMS and the BBC? I would have thought that S4C would have more independence with the BBC than from DCMS.

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) S4C is not in competition, though, with the DCMS. Well, perhaps you could argue that it is-but not in terms of producing television programmes. They are in competition with BBC and in essence that’s the difference.

Q97 Susan Elan Jones: (Translation) Do you think it is important to have this independence in statute? Mr Cairns has already said that the Minister promised to have something in the Chamber. Do you think it is all-important to have that written in an Act?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) Yes, I think it is important because that’s the only way you are going to avoid the misinterpretation and then S4C and the BBC will know clearly and precisely where they are.

Susan Elan Jones: (Translation) It is important to get the interpretation right so that everybody knows what the situation is and then it couldn’t be changed?

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) And so that we can look beyond 2015.

Q98 Guto Bebb: (Translation) I don’t want to go back over history, but I think, if we look forward and look for a new operational authority for S4C-because I think, whatever happens, the Authority and the Chair will in due course be leaving-a new Authority will be needed. What concerns me-and this is specifically for TAC-is that Ian Hargreaves last week told us that there was a "conspiracy of silence" round S4C, and you said, "Of course, that’s not true-we’ve heard nothing for months but S4C". But as someone who comes from north-west Wales, I think there is an element of truth in that because I have been aware that there has been huge concern in the industry about the way S4C was operating. If you read the Welsh media-Barn, Lol, etcetera, you can start to see allegations of serious maladministration and bad operating practice. I don’t know whether that is true or not, but are there any lessons, do you think, as TAC, that can be learned from the past five years for any new structure for the future?

Iestyn Garlick: (Translation) Certainly I would say that there is a need for whatever is put in place in future to be a little bit more transparent. There should be more open discussion. There was an element of communication failure with S4C. It was difficult for companies to criticise, and it is natural for companies to criticise the broadcaster, whether that be S4C, ITV or the BBC. I’d agree that those structures have to be set in place.

Gareth Williams: (Translation) I think it is a lesson for politicians, too, because the 2003 said that there should be a review every five years. That hasn’t happened. So I think that we could make sure that S4C is accountable for the way it spends public funds through that review process, and the Government should be do that.

Q99 Guto Bebb: This is a question to Ofcom, basically. Obviously, you are aware of some of the concerns that have been raised in terms of the relationship between the S4C Authority and the industry in Wales. You are aware that there have been issues. In terms of best practice moving forward, are there particular issues that you would like to highlight as things that should be taken into consideration when putting together a structure for taking S4C forward under the new agreement?

Rhodri Williams: I think there is a discussion to be had between the DCMS, the S4C Authority, the BBC Trust and the community of suppliers of programmes to the channel. I think it is for them to come to a conclusion-an agreement-about how that can best happen, and for it to be transparent, and for it to be clear where responsibility lies. But that is a matter for them to sort out rather than us. Our remit is very clearly set out in the 2003 Communications Act, and advising on structures of that kind is not part of our responsibilities.

Q100 Guto Bebb: Did you feel that you had any responsibility to highlight the fact that the five-yearly review didn’t happen or did not occur? Did you advise the DCMS in any way in 2008 as to why nothing was done?

Rhodri Williams: No. We have had discussions with DCMS regarding S4C twice since Ofcom has come into existence because we have undertaken two reviews of public service broadcasting in that period. In the first one, I think it is fair to say that we thought some issues needed to be addressed, and came up with some options, one of which, of course, was to give the responsibility for Welsh-language broadcasting in its entirety to the BBC. At the other end of the spectrum, there was the option of, in a sense, privatising the service, putting it out to contract. In the middle was a new relationship between the broadcaster-S4C-and the BBC, and that is what came about.

In our second review of public service broadcasting, very much at the time of that review-and members of this Committee will certainly remember it-the burning issue in Wales was the one that has been referred to earlier of the decline in spend and in output of English-language broadcasting. We listened to the views of stakeholders. We held, as we usually do in these circumstances, numerous events in Wales to listen to what people had to say. To be fair, nobody was knocking at our door then asking us to look at this or look at that in terms of Welsh-language broadcasting. What people were saying was that they were very worried about the future of English-language broadcasting, and particularly about plurality: would there be competition for the BBC’s English-language services in Wales from ITV or some other source?

As I say, when we undertook that extensive review-it took 12 months, so it wasn’t a sort of quick-and-dirty job-we took a long time about it and nobody at that time, including some of the people who now allude to failures to undertake a review of S4C, knocked at our door to ask us to review S4C at that time.

Q101 Owen Smith: This is a question for Mr Williams. Were you consulted by the Secretary of State before the announcement about the cuts to S4C’s funding and the changes in the governance?

Rhodri Williams: No, and we wouldn’t expect to be either. This is a relationship between the Secretary of State and his Department and S4C, and we have no seat at that table unless invited there by the Secretary of State.

Q102 Owen Smith: On a separate question, in the light of what you were saying about the split between English and Welsh language programming and the clear reduction in the volume of English-language programming about Wales being made in Wales, would you have any concerns, if S4C comes under the aegis of the BBC, about how that split might evolve in future, especially after the S4C guaranteed funding dries up and then it is left down to the BBC to apportion its budget between Welsh and English-language programmes?

Rhodri Williams: We have certainly drawn attention, in that last review of public service broadcasting, to the importance of plurality. That is why it is so important that S4C’s programme budget is actually spent in its entirety with independent production companies. We have certainly argued consistently across the years that plurality, whether it is in English-language programming or in Welsh-language programming, is important. It is important in Wales, given the scale of the industry, in that we don’t have other suppliers. Sky and lots of the digital channels make no contribution to broadcasting in Wales for a Welsh audience in particular. We certainly think it is important that that plurality continues to exist. That means that you have at least two people in future commissioning Welsh-language content: S4C, with the money it gets commissioning Welsh-language programmes from independent producers, and the BBC, with its ongoing commitment to Welsh-language broadcasting making programmes itself and also, on occasion, commissioning independent production companies to make programmes in Welsh.

Q103 Owen Smith: Should Ofcom have some further role in looking at whether the split between English-language and Welsh-language programming is equitable in Wales, given that nobody really has any oversight over that, and that obviously is going to be critical if the BBC is running S4C effectively?

Chris Woolard: I am sorry if this is a rather cheesy answer, but, ultimately, obviously, that is a matter for Parliament. We certainly don’t have those powers at the moment, as you rightly say. I think, historically the question has been one taken by a series of broadcasters, including the BBC, including ITV, in terms of the amount they are going to invest in particular types of programming. Historically, again, we have not tended to intervene in those kinds of decisions.

Q104 Karen Lumley: Do you think we should make changes in S4C’s remit in going forward and, if so, what should they be?

Rhodri Williams: Again, I don’t think it’s for Ofcom to say whether there should be changes. The remit has been set out by Parliament and I am sure that you, as Members of Parliament, and the Department with responsibility for the matter, would want to hang on to that ability to dictate what the remit is. I think it is important to stress that in our regulatory role in relation to S4C, as with other broadcasters, we are an independent regulator. In order to maintain that position, I think it is essential that that independence is kept, and that the waters are not muddied by being directly involved in making what are, in essence, political decisions about the nature of the remit of S4C.

Chair: I’ve a feeling you don’t really want to express a view on this.

Karen Lumley: He’s a politician.

Gareth Williams: I think, as a remit, it could do with having more focus and let’s not forget about this commercial money that S4C has from the sale of SDN, £27 million. How S4C is viewed is terrifically important and it could be using some of that money to invest more in coproductions, in international productions, pushing itself out there. It has a very strong brand, so I think in its remit it needs to look at ways of getting that brand more involved with interactive aspects and certainly with international productions. Yes, it has a core remit of broadcasting within Wales and about Welsh things, but it needs to look further afield as well.

Q105 Karen Lumley: And should it be catering to an English-speaking audience as well?

Gareth Williams: It currently is, isn’t it? English-speaking viewers are enjoying its output and giving positive feedback, for example.

Q106 Stuart Andrew: Wales enjoys the highest spend per head across the four UK nations when it comes to broadcastbased outputs. Looking at the areas particularly of efficiency and value for money, how thoroughly has S4C been evaluated and what have we learnt from those initiatives?

Gareth Williams: I would say, as a sector, that we have been coping with efficiencies for the last number of years, in terms of "more for less", if you like, in terms of providing output. I think we are going to be seeing more of this kind of relationship over the next years in terms of output provided in the set costs.

Iestyn Garlick: When the whole digital thing was about to happen, companies made savings. As an extra sort of X factor, we were asked to see what we could do if we had five programmes, "Could you then do a sixth or seventh free of charge?", etcetera, etcetera. We have done that. Over the last 10 years or so we have been making savings and I am sure we will manage to make more savings.

Gareth Williams: Again, I would say this is not a situation unique to S4C. This is something arising with broadcasters across the world. S4C fully funds its core programmes, if you like, but it can take a view then on international co-productions where it is a partial funder, and then that prompts additional sources of revenue to come to the table from other companies, from other international distributors. I think it will be good for S4C to branch out a little bit more in those directions.

Q107 Stuart Andrew: That brings me on to the next point about how it compares with other public service broadcasters in terms of being efficient and delivering value for money. How would you say it compares with those?

Iestyn Garlick: I think it compares fairly well with companies and product abroad.

Q108 Chair: What would the average cost-per-hour of making programmes for the BBC or S4C be?

Iestyn Garlick: It varies.

Gareth Williams: For BBC Wales and S4C?

Q109 Chair: I know this is a rough question, but it has been suggested it is far more expensive to make programmes for S4C in Welsh than it is for the BBC in English. Is that right?

Gareth Williams: I would say it depends entirely on the nature of the production. Drama is obviously at the costly end. Selfshot factual documentaries are being made at a very, very, very low cost. I wouldn’t agree that S4C was disproportionately more expensive than BBC Wales.

Q110 Chair: What about the suggestion that people on soap operas such as Pobl y Cwm are earning roughly the same amount as somebody appearing on a soap opera such as EastEnders because of an agreement by Equity that soap operas get paid a certain amount regardless of how many people watch the programme? That is something that I have been told. Is that correct?

Iestyn Garlick: I appear in a soap opera called Rownd a Rownd and I can absolutely guarantee you that I don’t earn anything remotely like that.

Chair: The point was made by somebody from TAC to me quite recently.

Iestyn Garlick: I think the point is that Equity had got into a situation whereby they were paying an inflated figure, but certainly nowhere near what actors get on EastEnders or Coronation Street. It just wouldn’t be possible.

Gareth Williams: I think, historically, there is some grounding for this when S4C, pre-digital especially, was producing far fewer hours at a fairly substantial cost. It is not true now because its schedule has opened out and it is commissioning to fill hours throughout the day?

Q111 Geraint Davies: On this point, I was recently filmed by a person who was interviewing me and had a camera for BBC Wales. I understand from other sources that often S4C would have a crew of three or four people when the BBC would just have one person with a camera. Is that essentially true and are there a lot of cost opportunities that the BBC now can share with you to get your costs down?

Iestyn Garlick: I beg to differ. I think you would find it is absolutely the other way round. I have worked for the BBC many, many times and have been out filming. This is not recently; this is in the past, but it would be nothing to have 10 or 15 people. When I moved to work in the independent sector, I was amazed at how few people went out and how much multi-skilling is going on. I am amazed that there are independent companies that can afford to do what you suggest.

Q112 Geraint Davies: Secondly, on attracting an English-language audience, do you think there is any scope for having multi-lingual programmes? For instance, this hearing is in both English and Welsh.

Iestyn Garlick: There are certainly cases where that would happen, probably in sport. When the Minister suggested back in August that programmes should be dubbed, or could be dubbed, into Welsh, he was considering sport. He was at the Ryder Cup and I can see the logic in a commentary in Welsh and in English, as happens in rugby, and football.

Gareth Williams: Could I just add to that very quickly? There are benefits certainly in having a translation service and another narration in English available on sport programmes-absolutely. But, also, I would think of a drama like Ar y Tracs, which had Ruth Jones as one of the main characters. That had a certain amount of English in it alongside Welsh and it felt quite natural, I think.

Geraint Davies: And if you have an audience where there is a mixture of Welsh-

Chair: Hold it. We are running over now. Siân has a very, very quick question.

Q113 Mrs James: (Translation) Earlier, you said that about 500,000 people was the highest ceiling of viewers that you could attract at any one time. Do you think that we are making that point adequately: that we have a very small audience in Wales compared with the BBC, for example, and any programme on any channel that gets that number of viewers will be rare?

Gareth Williams: (Translation) Can I give you a very quick example of a series we have just made called The Indian Doctor? That went out on BBC Daytime and attracted 1.5 million viewers, which is a high daytime figure. It is now being repeated on BBC Wales and getting 170,000 viewers, which is again a very high number. When a Welsh drama on S4C gets 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 viewers, that is a significant proportion. It would be a huge pity to lose drama, which denotes ambition for a channel. Any channel that can’t do an ambitious drama like the recent Pen Talar would be significantly the poorer.

Q114 Susan Elan Jones: (Translation) I just want to ask a question to Ofcom. (The speaker continued in English) We have seen that on 14 October the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced some fairly big changes, whereby rather a lot of things seemed to be coming under his discretion, and that Ofcom would be losing quite a few things. For instance, it will no longer be required to conduct a review of public-service broadcasting every five years, or, I believe, to review the media ownership rules every three years. Do you think there will be any threat, to your political independence, that will stem from that and do you think that was a correct thing for the Secretary of State to do? What do you think will be the outcome?

Chris Woolard: Whether it is a correct thing for the Secretary of State to do is entirely a matter for him and it is not for us to comment on.

Susan Elan Jones: That’s right, because you are independent, yes?

Chris Woolard: In terms of the changes that are proposed potentially under an order, potentially under the Public Bodies Bill, for the most part what you have got to remember is, for example, in relation to public service broadcasting reviews, we will still conduct a quick annual survey of public service broadcasting, so we will certainly have an opportunity there to raise issues.

The question specifically in relation to who kicks off the ball, as it were, in five years, or whatever period, is now a matter essentially being posed to the Secretary of State. When you look at those changes in total, they don’t give us particular concerns, frankly. In one or two cases, some of the changes are removing things that we have gone through because the law says we have to go through them. But if you look at, for example, our review each year, essentially of networking arrangements for ITV, they create a lot of work for us, they create a lot of work for ITV but usually end up, frankly, in the same place.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed, Mr Woolard. I am afraid we are running a few minutes over now. I would like to thank you all very much indeed for your evidence and call the next witnesses.

Witnesses: David Donovan, BECTU, Michael Birtwistle, NUJ. and Hywel Williams MP, NUJ, Parliamentary Group, gave evidence.

Q115 Chair: (Translation) Thank you very much for attending the Committee. I’ll proceed very quickly. Can I begin, please, with Hywel Williams? Thank you very much for coming today as a member of the NUJ Parliamentary Group.

(The speaker continued in English) I would like to ask you about the submission that was made. It was actually signed by John McDonnell and Austin Mitchell, but it says here that the formal scrapping of the funding mechanism for S4C has already led to the loss of 25% of jobs and that hundreds more are likely to be lost in the production sector. Is that something that you are aware of, Mr Williams, because I am not aware that 25% of jobs have gone from S4C?

Hywel Williams: (Translation) First, let me explain that I am here in place of the other people who are members of this particular group, and that I have come at very short notice. I would prefer it if one of my colleagues around the table, who support the all-parliamentary group, answered technical questions about the subject.

Q116 Chair: (Translation) Let us therefore ask Mr Birtwistle to answer that question. (The speaker continued in English) You must have seen this submission from the NUJ Parliamentary Group?

Michael Birtwistle: Yes. My understanding is that that relates specifically to the staff actually working for S4C itself. The fear is that there is a threat that will express itself in terms of 25% of the jobs, of the people actually employed-

Q117 Chair: The submission says they have already gone. The submission says that 25% of the jobs have gone as a result of the change in the funding formula.

David Donovan: May I take that question, Chairman?

Chair: Certainly.

David Donovan: I believe that refers to-in fact I am fairly sure it does-the statement by the Authority in the light of the statement by the Secretary of State that there will be 40 job losses at S4C within the next two years.

Chair: It says here that it has already led to the loss of 25%. If it had said 25% of the jobs on the S4C Authority, I might have understood it.

David Donovan: It wouldn’t have been enough.

Q118 Chair: Perhaps I can turn to a couple of other questions. May I ask the union representatives whether you really think that S4C is being well run at the moment? Anyone?

David Donovan: It depends what you mean by "well run", doesn’t it? I think we have to consider S4C in the context of the announcement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that propelled it into a hectic period of extremely close scrutiny. I think in terms of programme-making, commissioning and the technical output, it is well run. I believe it is extremely good value for the DCMS. I believe that S4C is dedicated to the delivery of Welshlanguage programming at the highest level. I think-

Q119 Chair: Okay, I accept your point. I am sorry, I am not trying to be rude and I know Mr Williams wants to come in. I have one last quick question. Both of you are senior union representatives, so you understand the importance of negotiation. Do you think that the S4C Authority has handled itself well in its negotiations-those that have taken place, anyway, with DCMS? Do you think it is important that the S4C Authority has a good working relationship with the people it negotiates with?

Michael Birtwistle: Obviously that would be extremely important. I don’t think we know the nature of the details of what has been going on behind closed doors, and I think we would love to know a little bit more detail about what has been going on. If we are to talk about the nature of the S4C Authority, we, as trade unions, have consistently said over a great number of years that we would like to see, both at S4C and at the BBC, in terms of the Trust, authorities, which are much more open in the way that they conduct their business but also in terms of the way that they take evidence and advice. I think what you have had over a long period of time, both at the BBC and S4C, is a situation whereby only one or two members of management have been speaking to the Authority. Nobody else has been able to give any opinion about what has been going on. I know, for example, from my experiences at the BBC, where I was a union official, that we sought on numerous occasions to give at least our perception of what was going on at the BBC, but that doesn’t happen in the nature of the climate that we have been working with previously.

Q120 Chair: Do you think it is wise, when negotiating with a Government Department for £100 million-and that is the sort of sum of money-to refer to them rather dismissively in press releases as "the London Government"? Clearly they are not the London Government. They are the British Government and they are no more the London Government than the Welsh Assembly is the Cardiff Government. Are these sorts of rather discourteous comments in a press release wise for an Authority that is trying to negotiate with a Government Department for a lot of money?

Michael Birtwistle: I don’t know. I don’t take it that way. I take that as shorthand. However, it may appear rude. I am sorry, but in Welsh you refer to "San Steffan", do you not, and then you refer to "Bae Caerdydd"? It’s a shorthand way of speaking about the two Governments. I would think that maybe what you have got there is a translation from the Welsh. I wouldn’t take it at-

Chair: I took it as being rather symptomatic.

Michael Birtwistle: It seems a very tiny thing to pick up on, if I may say so.

Chair: No, I thought it was symptomatic. I know Mr Williams would like to speak and then I will allow others to come in.

Hywel Williams: (Translation) Can I say firstly, as a member of Plaid Cymru, that I don’t have any problem at all with the Government in London being called "the London Government"? Having said that, from the outside, it appears to me that there is quite a lot of mess and disorder. But when one looks at the situation, perhaps there is disorder in S4C and the Authority-I don’t know; I’m outside that. However, one looks at the evidence from the outside. May I refer the Committee to the letter that we all, as honourable Members, received from the Secretary of State last week dated 25 November? I have copies of it here if any member of the Committee wishes to see it. It talks about ensuring the independence of the service and editorial independence, and securing the brand. But it then goes on to list seven matters that are, as yet, undecided and will not be decided, so he says, until the middle of the year. They are essential things like S4C’s independence, impact on independent producers, the regulation of the service, accountability, etcetera, etcetera. All the attention has been on what has been going on in S4C, but I would like to draw attention to those things as well.

Chair: (Translation) We’d like a copy of the document.

Q121 Owen Smith: Given your long experience working with the BBC and S4C, what do you feel about that traditional cooperation, or perhaps lack of it, between the two bodies in Wales, and what, therefore, are your concerns about how that might continue in future, given the proposal that they work very much closer together?

David Donovan: I think it is extremely difficult for us to understand or accept that the proposal that the BBC become responsible for S4C is appropriate at all. We believe, and we would hope to convince Members of Parliament, that that is the wrong option for S4C, its independence and the independence of an expression of a modern cultural Wales.

In terms of the BBC and its relationship with S4C, it has been in many senses symptomatic of negotiation, as the Chairman was saying. Negotiations with employers or partners at any time go through various stages, and I think there have been occasions when S4C or the BBC have sought, perhaps wittingly or unwittingly, to outdo the other in those negotiations. In the sense of where we would be in the future, we see the BBC as having a very clear remit for the United Kingdom, and that S4C has an equally clear remit for Welsh-speaking people in Wales. They are two separate functions in that sense. Our concern would be that, were the merger to take place, we would lose a very valid Welsh-language broadcaster. It would become liable to the cuts that we are having to deal with annually currently with the BBC, let alone the costed cuts of around £500 million that these proposals would introduce.

Q122 Guto Bebb: First of all I would like to highlight the letter from the DCMS, which obviously I had a copy of last week. In this situation the Minister, obviously, can’t win because when he says, in effect, that there is a need for a threeway discussion about the future of S4C, he is accused of not giving answers and creating confusion. If he had dictated the answer, he would be accused of showing no respect to the industry in Wales. I just want to put that point on record.

In terms of the question about whether S4C has been well governed (Translation)- and I have already asked this question several times-it is important, I think, to note that we are talking about the difficulties within the Authority as being something that has been created as a result of this idea of cuts. But to be completely fair on that matter, you have to accept, I think, that true concern has been shown over the last few months in Wales, about not only the problems facing the channel now, but the way in which the channel has conducted itself over the last five years. Magazines have published information which has not been challenged. TAC’s former Chief Executive has made some quite serious allegations about the way in which S4C was operating, and same Authority is there now as when these allegations were being made. To what extent, then, can you claim that this instability is only because of the cuts?

David Donovan: I didn’t say that it was only down to the cuts. I believe that, when we come to negotiation, I saw very little negotiation on the announcement from the Minister and the BBC when it was made.

In the sense of whether it has been well run, we have had serious reservations, which are on record, about the Authority and the Chief Executive, going back to the initial notion of the bundling and getting ready for digitalisation. In actual fact, I know it is true to say that BECTU sought the resignation of the Chief Executive at that time because we believed that the strategy for digitalisation was flawed because it was based on the premise of putting wallpaper television out there as opposed to quality programming. The notion of the reach and audience share is delicate. It has to be considered very carefully. But the underlying fact is that it has lost touch with its audience, and that was the critique that BECTU brought forward. When you lose touch with your audience, when you go for wallpaper, when you lose the notion of quality broadcasting, you will lose your viewers. When you lose the viewers, you may well become a political football.

Chair: And that is a very important point.

Q123 Guto Bebb: On the specific issue of the size of S4C-the comments you made about the 25% cuts-members of the industry said last week that S4C had actually become bloated. Do you believe that a commissioning company such as S4C requires the number of staff that it currently has?

David Donovan: I don’t believe that it is a bloated organisation. I disagree. If you compare it with other major broadcasters, it is not bloated. I believe that with, what is it, 155 full-time staff, it stands comparison with many similar organisations.

Chair: Thank you for that clear answer.

Hywel Williams: (Translation) I will briefly respond to Mr Bebb’s point . The point I was making, perhaps not clearly enough, was that the fateful decision about the funding cut appeared to be made without considering the other points about there being a mess on both sides.

Q124 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) W hat are the main dangers -you have started to touch on th em - of the Government’s recommendations, and is there an alternative apart from creating a partnership with the BBC?

Michael Birtwistle: (Translation) One of the things that is important about S4C, I think, is the way in which it is perceived in the country. It is perceived as an entirely independent organisation , which represents the Welsh language. In that respect, it is more than just a broadcaster. It is a kind of symbol of the Welsh language within the nation. This actually is jeopardising that symbolism. It is undermining that picture in people’s minds. If people start to think that it is just an extension of the BBC, then you have changed the nature of the beast.

We have heard this week, for example, about the problems facing the Aman and Tawe communities, where there is talk that the Welsh language is perhaps disappearing or being undermined as that area’s community language. One of the things that S4C succeeded in doing-and we agree, as unions, that ultimately we would like S4C to be devolved, so to speak, more into the Welsh-speaking areas-was being a symbol of Welshness. One of S4C’s roles was trying to reach those communities and make programmes particularly for those communities. I know from my career as a journalist that one of our jobs in making Welsh-language programmes was to try to reach these particular people because there was a realisation that they didn’t watch enough Welsh-language programmes.

Q125 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) It appears that there is some kind of consensus on defending the channel’s operational independence. What does that mean to you? Then, in terms of top-slicing the funding from DCMS, how important is that?

Michael Birtwistle: (Translation) As someone who has worked for a number of years in the BBC, may I say that the BBC is a fantastic institution and we are so lucky to have something of that nature? But it is not the BBC’s main role to defend the Welsh language, encourage use of the Welsh language and represent the Welsh culture. That is not what the BBC does. The relationship between S4C and those communities is a very special one and, from my experience in the BBC, having worked both in Welsh and English and for network programmes, unfortunately the Welsh language is considered in the BBC as a poor relation. That was my experience during the years that I worked there.

Hywel Williams: (Translation) I don’t have to tell this Committee that you have to follow the money to see what happens, and that’s why I think it is very important that the money should go directly to S4C and that it is not tied up in the internal workings of the BBC.

Q126 Guto Bebb: (Translation) Can I just challenge you a little about the BBC specifically? I hear a lot of people claiming that they are seriously concerned about the fact that there’s a link with the BBC, and the issue of ownership. But I would argue that there is true ownership within the Welsh language communities of Radio Cymru, which is provided solely by the BBC. So I don’t quite see why there is so much concern about the relationship with the BBC.

David Donovan: I disagree, because what 1982 gave us for the first time was the ability to work and to observe ourselves in our own language. That was the critical difference between what was happening with ITV and the BBC. That whole issue-the antagonism between the languages at that time-was simply because of a lack of S4C. I think, as well, when you look at S4C or you look at an inhabitant of the modern Wales, it is an expression of modern Wales. I can’t see anything wrong-

Chair: Thank you, Mr Donovan. I think Mr Cairns may have a slightly differently view here.

Q127 Alun Cairns : I think we are in danger of having some sort of academic lecture about history, but let’s look the future. Let’s be practical about what’s in front of us. First, I want to say to Mr Williams-after his sharing this letter, which was a public document anyway, which I’ve certainly circulated to colleagues, to people in the industry and to viewers-don’t you take confidence from this letter, where the Secretary of State talks about "independent service" and "editorial independence"? I’m sorry that you weren’t in the Chamber yesterday when there was an opportunity to question the Secretary of State, but I had the opportunity to question him and he said that he wanted operational and editorial independence, plus he has also gone on the record saying that 100% of the funding would go to the independent sector.

Do you not accept, Mr Williams, that some of the statements you are making-and maybe some of your colleagues and some other people, perhaps with other vested political interests-are simply scaremongering and that we are in a situation where funding will drop from £100 million to £83 million, which, in the context of this financial climate, I would say is a pretty good deal, together with keeping the other sources of funding that are available? Do you not accept that this is a positive move in terms of looking forward to how S4C would be funded in the future?

Hywel Williams: (Translation) I refute the allegation that we are using this for political purposes. My concern since the 1970s, when I started working on this campaign, has been to secure a Welsh-language service of the highest standard for the people of Wales. I would never use that for political purposes. However, as I said, there are issues that the Secretary of State has not even yet started discussing. He has said that he will not settle them till the middle of next year. Those decisions should have been before he cut a quarter of S4C’s funding.

Alun Cairns: (Translation) I am pleased to confirm-I have had several meetings with the Secretary of State-that there is a bright future (the speaker continued in English)-operational, editorial independence, 100% of the funding going to the independent sector, and there won’t be full control by the BBC.

I want to ask Mr Donovan this. I f you are faced with a position where, in this f inancial climate, there simply is n’t any money left, as the former Chief Secretary to the Tre a sury said , and S4C potentially face s the future of maybe a cut of up to 40% on the one hand or funding from the BBC , with the gu arantees of operational and editorial independence, and 100% of the funding going to the independent sector of the money that is made available by DCMS and by the BBC, do you think that is not a better arrangement, or would you say, "Well, we’ll take 100% of funding from DCMS under the current arrangements but the cut might be up to 40%"? That is the reality of the choice we face.

David Donovan: We believe that in this current economic sector it is difficult to argue why any institution, business or company should be absolved from cuts. The critical difference is that where Governments make cuts, they have to be cognisant of the impact of those cuts on the broadcaster concerned.

Chair: I am ever so sorry, we are going to run out of time very shortly.

Q128 Owen Smith: Mr Donovan, do you credit the notion that there can be proper editorial and, more importantly, I guess, operational independence for S4C if it comes under the aegis of the BBC and its funds are being controlled through the BBC, whether it is the Trust or management?

David Donovan: I think the issue of editorial control could be resolved separately and that is the issue we are trying to deal with, with respect, Mr Cairns. The issue is that we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke to a great extent because we don’t know the detail of what is being proposed. We are being given reassurances and, with respect, we are being given reassurances because of the reaction in Wales to this very proposal. I also believe that the difficulty for us is that in Wales, in the context of, "Are we going to accept cuts at the BBC or in S4C?", it is like putting two ferrets in a sack, isn’t it? We deserve better in Wales for a modern industry, a modern broadcaster. I think when it comes to the BBC our overriding concern is that it is already suffering major cuts.

Q129 Mrs James: Just to follow on on that point, you have stated in your submissions that S4C has helped develop a skilled, modern workforce at a time when traditional industry is in decline, and that several generations of people have been allowed to stay in Wales and develop their careers there. Who has measured this and what have you based those figures on? I am not knocking it. I agree with you, but obviously-

David Donovan: On the figures, there was no independent sector, or there was only a very, very small independent sector in 1982. Most people in 1982 worked in the ITV network or in the BBC. The introduction of S4C gave rise to that independent sector-a large number of small companies all vying with each other for commissions from S4C. That necessitated a workforce. It meant many people left ITV or the BBC to fuel that workforce. We know that, broadly speaking, 2,000 people work in the independent sector providing that workforce for S4C. But the critical, important factor about the workforce that has developed around S4C-and many people came back to Wales to work because they had the ability of working in their own language, the language of their choice-is that it created the perception that there were technicians and production crew in Wales that could actually deliver in comparison with London.

The important issue about that, though, is that these skills are now being able to be capitalised on by BBC Wales, which has become a centre of excellence for drama. That workforce is broadly the same workforce.

Q130 Mrs James: (Translation) Just to finish off my questions, do you think that S4C should concentrate mainly on the Welsh language and support the language, or do you think we should provide a service for non-Welsh speakers-English speakers?

Michael Birtwistle: (Translation) We, as unions, don’t feel that it is a good idea to confuse or dilute the role of S4C. We should ensure that S4C, as we have been arguing, produces programmes of a high standard, with a very clear idea about its audience. I think, also, it would be offensive to the English-medium audience if they had to take something which is a bit of a hybrid. They deserve services in their language that try to reach their communities and their cultures.

Q131 Mrs James: (Translation) To go back to that point, there is a ceiling. We have only so much audience or so many viewers in Wales. Do you feel it is fair to compare what we broadcast or produce in Wales with the BBC and ITV on a Saturday night, for example? We are never going to get those figures.

Michael Birtwistle: (Translation) No. Trying to compare on that level is not possible. People have pointed out how lucky we are to have the Welsh language and that special relationship. Yes, to an extent, we are privileged, but the culture has also suffered over centuries and deserves a bit of a boost at the moment.

David Donovan: What S4C has to do is to deliver for Welsh-language viewers. That is its primary role. It has to see that in the context of 600,000 people, and people in the wider diaspora. That is what we require of S4C and that is what is being delivered.

Hywel Williams: (Translation) It is vital that we have one domain entirely in Welsh. Perhaps there is a place for others either side of that, but I think the core has to be in Welsh.

Q132 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) I have asked most of the questions I wanted to ask, but in terms of defending the independence of S4C as a body-say, for example, the Government pushes ahead with the plans as they are and the current recommendations-what kind of measures are needed then to defend that independence within that context?

Michael Birtwistle: (Translation) One of the things I wanted to say at the beginning was that the reason we have come here to defend S4C is there have been several reviews recently by Ofcom, by the Welsh Affairs Committee, by sub-committees in Cardiff'-several efforts-to look predominantly into the English side of things. Before taking a decision about what would happen in English-medium broadcasting, there needed to be a lot of discussion and that has happened. But the reason we have to come here and be so defensive, to answer some of the questions which have been asked earlier, is because someone has tried to make a series of decisions without consultation in any way, shape or form, without asking the valid questions in the very first place. The English saying is: "Look before you leap", and a mistake was made. What we are trying to say now is: be careful; let us take a little bit of time. Let us think about this before we come to a firm decision.

Chair: (Translation) We can’t take our time now, I’m afraid, because of time.

Q133 Mr Williams: You have painted a very positive picture of S4C’s work out in the communities and I very much empathise with what you have said. Can you very quickly tell us what you see as the principal failings of the S4C Authority and management and, critically, the extent to which you conveyed those concerns to the management? As to BECTU, Mr Donovan has alluded to some of the concerns he has raised in the past. Having expressed those concerns, what was the response?

David Donovan: The critique was based on tripling the output that S4C would provide in the onset to preparation for digitalisation with no increase in resources. That was a critical failure of the Chief Executive at that time. We believe that, if you tripled the output at that time with no increase in the funding, you were only going to go in one direction and that was, critically, you were going to make cheaper programmes with less high-production values. We conveyed those concerns in those clear and succinct terms to the Chief Executive, to TAC and other interested bodies at the time, and the Chief Executive’s response was rather disappointing. He chose not to believe us. Well, here we are some 10 or 12 years later and I would say that the weight of evidence is on the side of BECTU. What did we do about it? We sought the resignation of the Chief Executive at that time. We believed it was appropriate because we saw a great orange light, if not a red light, flashing in front of our members.

With the Authority, the Authority chose not to investigate rigorously our claims with the Chief Executive, and I believe that was a failure. But, more critically, the DCMS chose to ignore it as well and that is where the ultimate responsibility lay.

Mr Williams: And, very quickly, the NUJ, your concerns?

Michael Birtwistle: I think that, as I said earlier, one key element should be that the authorities, both in terms of S4C and the BBC, should be in a position to take advice or at least listen to arguments from other people apart from a handful of senior executives in management positions in those organisations. I think that that is a position we have seen as problematic in the BBC, and a position maybe that has been problematic in S4C. If there is too close a relationship between the two, then is there sufficient questioning going on of what is happening? If we were to open up such bodies, both at a British level and at a Welsh level, it would be a much healthier state of affairs.

Q134 Geraint Davies: I was wondering if you thought there was a danger with the BBC taking over that they will asset strip some of the human resources; that the ambition of people with a career in S4C will be re-orientated towards the BBC; and that maybe they will compromise their commitment to the Welsh language as they move through this bigger animal and it becomes more mainstream?

David Donovan: Yes, absolutely. I have heard the words "review efficiency" as well. For me, in my job, that means one thing: job losses, because there is an inevitability about the co-working or the BBC taking over S4C. But the figures are in front of us already. We can only see any sort of reassurance about the programming budget. That means all the staff who are currently employed have no room within any budget going forward. There is an inevitability about those staff from S4C. I would suggest they will be TUPE transferred into the BBC. There will be duplication there, and a builtin dynamic which says, "We have to have efficiency." We will lose jobs.

I have one last point, sir. The important thing about S4C is that it gives the opportunity for Welsh speakers to work in a modern hitech industry, which is well rewarded, in their own language.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed. Mr Donovan, Mr Birtwistle and Hywel Williams. (Translation) Thank you very much for your attendance.

Witnesses: Meri Huws and Meirion Prys Jones, Welsh Language Board, and Menna Machreth and Colin Nosworthy, Welsh Language Society, gave evidence.

Q135 Chair: (Translation) Thank you very much for coming here today. I am sorry that we are a bit late. Everybody is very enthusiastic about this subject. Can I begin with a question to the Welsh Language Society? (The speaker continued in English) You held a protest recently in Cardiff about S4C. Forgive me for asking a slightly naughty question perhaps, but why not encourage people to protest by switching on their television a little bit more and getting more people watching S4C?

Menna Machreth : (Translation) We take it for granted that the people who came to the protest do actually switch their televisions on. The channel is loved and respected by many people in Wales, and the number of people who turned up to the protest showed that.

Colin Nosw orthy: (Translation) I think the main reason we held the protest was because of the threat to the channel. There are three clear threats to the channel. One is the cuts of over 40%, after considering inflation; there is also the idea of joint management by the BBC, and, thirdly, there are the huge powers being given to the Secretary of State even to abolish S4C entirely under the Public Bodies Bill. There is a crisis because of those three threats.

Q136 Chair: (Translation) Do you think, Mr Nosworthy, that the S4C Board is correctly managed? Are you happy with the Board at the moment?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) I think we have to look at the relevant issues here.

Chair: (Translation) You don’t you think that is relevant, do you?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Could I, please, finish my point? The relevant issues are the structure and how the channel is funded, and to talk about individuals really is to start a hare in this debate. The important thing is to have a structure that works correctly.

Alun Cairns : (Translation) Can I interject? You have to have confidence in the people who are responsible for spending the money, surely?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Yes, but I think a lot of the discussion going on at the moment is using individuals as an excuse to avoid the really relevant issues, i.e. what is going on in the Public Bodies Bill. There’s a clear threat. Nobody has explained to us why you would give a Minister the power to abolish S4C in the Public Bodies Bill. Why would you do that? A lot of people are saying that S4C should have a prominent role in the negotiations about the channel, but how can you do that and sit down with somebody who has the power to abolish you entirely? It is very difficult to have that kind of discussion.

Q137 Chair: (Translation) What about the Welsh Language Board? Do you have confidence in the way in which S4C is being managed?

Meri Huws: (Translation) I think that what is important at the moment is to look at the output. From the Board’s point of view, we are very comfortable in terms of S4C’s output. That has been significantly importance in terms of linguistic planning over the last few decades. Clearly, there is a concern at the moment about what is going on at an organisational level, but what is so important to us as a Board is the output, and we need to make sure that the internal arrangements mean that that output can continue and be strengthened. That’s the aim.

Q138 Susan Elan Jones: (Translation) We don’t know how many people view S4C on the net using Clic. I think there is an intention for the Board, the BBC and S4C to undertake a review on how many people who speak or are learning Welsh view S4C in that way and read Welsh language magazines. When will that happen?

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) In terms of looking at patterns and data for the Welsh language, the situation is improving and is developing all the time in terms of the knowledge we hold. That kind of information would certainly be of use because we need to know how many people use the technical resources that are not just programmes. So that is a development. Over the years, we have undertaken research jointly with S4C and also with the BBC and with the Arts Council to look at the patterns of viewing, and how they vary between different age groups. The latest piece of research is developing that to ascertain the exact use that Welsh speakers make of the media. But it is quite a complex area, so it is going to take us some time to look at the data and come to a conclusion.

Q139 Susan Elan Jones: (Translation) When we talk about who currently speaks Welsh in Wales and who is learning Welsh, and when you think about the structure of families in Wales now, things have changed completely. Last week, I was reading evidence by Urdd Gobaith Cymru, and what was very interesting was that one of the purposes of S4C was to normalise the use of the Welsh language. Of course, if you go back to the 1950s-I don’t remember the 1950s, by the way, but I remember my mother talking about an Urdd Gobaith Cymru poster, which said "Welsh is the language of the home. Speak it". But that has changed entirely now. Can you tell us a little bit about who speaks Welsh now and S4C’s role in families where some members may be Welsh speakers and some are not?

Menna Machreth: I think we are working very hard to try to tell people that the Welsh language is a language for everybody in Wales, whether you speak it or not. That is a very important message: that everybody should feel ownership of the language. That is why S4C is important because people have access to the language in a very easy way, whether they speak it or not. If their children are being educated through the medium of Welsh, they want them to see and hear more Welsh. It is very interesting that there’s an awful lot of support among non-Welsh speakers for S4C because they feel that S4C has programmes that discuss Wales and its communities. That is why it is important.

Meri Huws: (Translation) If I can come in very quickly there, I think we need to look at several audiences here, not just the chapel audience or the hearth audience. If you think of the audiences that S4C serves, they include children who may be learning Welsh in school, where nobody at home speaks Welsh-the parents are not Welsh speakers. S4C is of central importance to them in giving them a Welsh experience. Young people who go through their school experience-we’ve heard about Rownd a Rownd already-need something which is modern and contemporary for them to view. Then you have the learners, who also turn to S4C and a different type of viewing. Then there are natural Welsh speakers, but they are not uniform. I don’t want to watch sport through the medium of Welsh, but I am more than happy to watch a cookery programme or a style programme in Welsh. There is no uniform audience. Also, we have heard today about non-Welsh speakers who use the channel as a way in, to have an experience of Wales. It is far easier to understand Wales through something visual than just reading about it in a dry manner. It is a very important medium, so S4C is more than just a television channel for one audience.

Q140 Chair: (Translation) A representative of BECTU has just told us that there’s too much bad quality stuff on S4C, and they are better off concentrating on fewer programmes of high standard. Do you agree?

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) It depends what the definition of "high standard" is. The channel has to serve a very broad range of interests. There will be some things of general interest, but you are talking about creating programmes that may be for someone who wants to watch perhaps Ralïo-the rallying programme-or Codi Canu on a Saturday night. Trying to encompass that kind of varying audience with material that is appropriate for the viewer is quite difficult when you think about the concept of standards. That is one of the challenges: how can you answer all those needs within the budget?

Q141 Owen Smith: Clearly, I think we believe, on this side at least, that the Secretary of State fundamentally misunderstood the nature of S4C historically and culturally when he waded into this row. However, is there not a case for some reform of the nature of S4C? We heard earlier its being described as the "guardian of the language". Is it the guardian of the language? No. It is a broadcaster and has certain statutory responsibilities in terms of normalising the language. What is its role, do you think? What ought to be its role in the 21st century in a bilingual Wales-its statutory role to protect and nurture the language? How should that be framed and perhaps reformed?

Meri Huws: (Translation) Certainly from the Welsh Language Board’s perspective, the essence and core role of S4C is to broadcast through the medium of Welsh, and it is "through the medium of Welsh" that is important there. It is not just a broadcaster, but a promoter of the Welsh language as an integral part of the linguistic planning jigsaw in Wales. There is no question about that.

Can it be improved? Of course. Can different responses be made to different challenges such as new technologies, new audiences, new communities, in terms of viewers? Yes, of course. So, reviewing and moving forward are extremely important, and any medium would have to do that, I think, but the core role of the channel is that linguistic role in creating viewers, a culture and an industry as well.

Q142 Owen Smith: The followup question, if I may, is, what are your concerns about how that core role becomes diluted or diminished if the BBC takes over effective running of S4C, albeit with the guarantees we have got of editorial independence?

Meri Huws: (Translation) As has already been said today-and I will repeat this very clearly-the BBC is a British institution. We are talking here about S4C, which has a core role in linguistic planning through the medium of Welsh. I believe that those two things could militate against each other. We have to make sure that that doesn’t happen. My worry would be diluting and losing that all-important focus on the Welsh language. I accept that there are ways around that, possibly, but that would be our predominant concern as a Board.

Q143 Alun Cairns : (Translation) Can I interject there and go back to Meri Huws’s comment that the BBC is a British institution? I accept that, but surely the DCMS, which funds S4C, is also a British institution? Are you undermining, for example, Radio Cymru’s Welsh broadcasts, which the BBC currently broadcasts? Are you saying that that they are not of good quality or that they don’t reach the target? I would imagine that that has some kind of significance-showing that the influence of the BBC can be positive, but we have to get the guarantee about independence.

Meri Huws: (Translation) I haven’t said anything about the quality of Radio Cymru’s programmes. I think that that is a completely separate issue. My concern here is independence in terms of the ability to provide and work to S4C’s core remit, which is to broadcast through the medium of Welsh, and having the funding certainty to do that for more than two or three years. That’s the concern.

Q144 Chair: (Translation) Does the Welsh Language Society have confidence in BBC Radio Cymru?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) That is a completely different matter and we didn’t realise that-

Chair: (Translation) Well, is it really? If the BBC is going to have influence over S4C, if you are happy with it at the moment, it undermines the argument against the BBC a little.

Menna Machreth: (Translation) Money has been cut back recently from Radio Cymru and the same thing has not happened to Radio Wales. That raises questions about how Welsh-language programmes would compete against English-medium programmes under the BBC system.

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) But in terms of looking at the difference between radio and television, in the context of promoting language, they are in two very different places. Part of the role of S4C is to provide status for the Welsh language. It is part of the bigger picture around the Welsh speaker and confidence.

Chair: (Translation) Forget about S4C for a moment. Are you happy? Have you confidence in BBC Radio Cymru?

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) In the provision, yes, but it is not the same picture. The status of S4C is completely different to the status of radio.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Can I just come back to Owen Smith’s point because I think it’s important for us, as the Welsh Language Society, to emphasise that we want to see changes to S4C as well? We want it to develop technologically, we want it to broaden its provision and be more like a Welsh-language broadcaster that provides multi-media services. We do have some ideas about how to develop S4C; we don’t just want to keep it exactly as it is.

Q145 Guto Bebb: (Translation) This is to the Welsh Language Board mainly, and I take the comment that the BBC is a British institution as a statement of fact, not a political point; I take that for granted. In the context of using S4C as a mode of linguistic planning, I think that we have Simon Brooks’ paper. It is very interesting, and I believe that S4C’s work on children’s programmes is certainly part of the linguistic planning work. But I am concerned that we have evidence from YouGov, for example, that shows that over 51% of Welsh speakers do not watch S4C at all. The channel has made a special effort to broadcast to the Aman and Tawe valley areas, but, again, this week the Board has been stating that the language is disappearing in those areas, despite the fact that S4C has made a deliberate attempt to target them. So is that evidence that S4C has failed or that more effort is needed?

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) In the context of linguistic planning and looking at the shift and the language change which is happening in the Aman and Tawe valley areas, I would say that the phenomenon is far beyond S4C. It relates to social and demographic changes that are happening in that area. We could argue that, without S4C’s concentrating the situation-if it hadn’t intervened and acted-it could be far worse. However, it is a worry.

Q146 Guto Bebb: (Translation) It concerns me that so much is said about S4C making such a huge contribution to the language-and I’m not denying that to a large extent-but is there specific evidence?

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) We know in terms of linguistic planning that linguistic confidence is one of the most important elements in terms of whether people speak Welsh. All our research shows that. All the evidence shows that the status of television in a minority language is undisputed. All the research echoes that completely, even when perhaps the people who speak the language don’t always view the channel.

Q147 Guto Bebb: (Translation) What you are really saying is, that if 50% of people don’t watch the channel, that in itself is not important as long as they know that it is there.

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) That is certainly one factor.

Q148 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) If I can move on, there is a consensus about ensuring operational independence for the channel. What does that mean to you as the Welsh Language Society, and where do you stand on the argument about top-slicing the funding from the British Government before it reaches the BBC?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) The independence of the channel is the most important thing because it has to have operational independence and financial independence to make sure that the interests of the channel don’t go into the interests of something else. So one of our major requirements is securing independence for a Welsh-language channel.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Also it all boils down to money, doesn’t it? That assurance has to be in statute and that’s why we are concerned about some of the comments that are being made. You can say an awful lot of things, but what’s most important, in our opinion, is what it says in statute. That’s what concerns us-that the measure doesn’t actually reflect some of the things that are being said about independence.

Q149 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) If there were methods of defending the funding after the money reaches the Trust, would have a problem with that or would you rather see the money top-sliced at the Government Department level?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) We are campaigning to keep the current situation in terms of how it is funded. We don’t want to see the BBC taking a role at all in the way in which S4C is funded.

Q150 Chair: I will have to do this in English. At the moment S4C has to answer to DCMS. In what sense is it going to be any different if it has to answer in some way to the BBC? It can be independent and answerable to DCMS and it may soon become independent and answerable to the BBC, but I would have thought that the Welsh Language Society might actually welcome this because, if I were in the Welsh Language Society, anyway, I might assume that the BBC was a little more favourable to the Welsh language and knowledgeable of it than DCMS.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) You are welcome to join, of course. [Laughter.]

Menna Machreth: (Translation) There has to be a statute to make sure that the channel operates through the medium of Welsh. There’s nothing in the BBC Charter that refers to the Welsh language.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) We are campaigning for devolving the responsibility for S4C, and one of the problems that perhaps currently exists is the lack of accountability. One of the ways to solve that is devolving the service to Wales.

Chair: (Translation) Thank you very much. I’ll think about your very kind offer in a moment.

Q151 Owen Smith: My question is for the Welsh Language Board. Again, it is about consultation and the perceived lack of consultation. Were you consulted at all by the Secretary of State before the decision was taken?

Meri Huws: (Translation) No. There was no contact with us as a statutory body-as we are a body established by a statute of this House to promote the Welsh language, that was perhaps surprising.

Q152 Geraint Davies: Given that S4C is a consumerdriven product for the Welsh people, don’t you think it is rather strange that the Government didn’t consult-I presume-either the Welsh Language Society or the Welsh Language Board on these fundamental changes?

Meri Huws: (Translation) As I have just said, as a body established under the Welsh Language Act 1993, we were disappointed and surprised that there was no discussion with us as a body of experts-not myself as the Chair of the Board, but there are linguistic planners in the Board who work on these areas every day.

Q153 Geraint Davies: As things move forward, are there any plans for more consultation and engagement with you in terms of implementing these plans or none at all?

Meri Huws: (Translation) The Board has asked for a meeting for quite a number of weeks now with the Minister at DCMS, and we are awaiting a reply to that request.

Q154 Alun Cairns : (Translation) Can I go back to the comments of the Welsh Language Society? I accept that the BBC Trust has no statutory duty towards the Welsh language or towards the independence of S4C and everything else. Hopefully, there will be discussions between S4C, DCMS and the BBC. Do you think that we can have some kind of consensus or contract, which gives us the guarantees that we need-operational and editorial independence, and 100% of the funding going to the independent sector? Do you think that that is possible?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Well, no, if you provide a power for a Minister to abolish the channel at the same time.

Alun Cairns : (Translation) But that is a completely separate point.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) No, it is not. How can you be independent at the same time as someone has a financial stick and the power to abolish the channel? One of the main reasons to get the assurance in statute is to secure the future.

Q155 Alun Cairns : (Translation) The Welsh Language Society argument is moving. First, it was against any kind of cuts, but we are in a very different financial climate from five or 10 years ago. The second point is about independence. The Minister has given independence: operational independence and editorial independence. The guarantee has been given on that, and now the argument has moved again. I don’t know what that protest in Cardiff was actually calling for. Before the protest took place, there were addresses and speeches were made, but the Minister had given those guarantees. So are you not just scaremongering about the channel?

Chair: Scaremongering, Mr Nosworthy?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) No. The letter from Michael Lyons did not guarantee anything. It didn’t guarantee our independence, and what Jeremy Hunt has said is not good enough.

Chair: (Translation) Have you finished your point?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) No. You were saying that the picture has changed. It hasn’t changed. We still say, "No to cuts, Yes to a new S4C"-the title of the rally. We are against the cuts in general and that remains our position.

Q156 Alun Cairns : (Translation) One point and one short question. Michael Lyons’ note and letter is just one side of the discussions. I’m not defending him about his stance, but I understand the stance that he is starting from. An agreement is needed, and that is his starting point. I would expect him to move towards an agreement whereby the three agreed. But if you had the choice between a cut of up to 40%, but with the money coming entirely from DCMS, as it does at the moment, or funding with a cut of £100 million to £83 million within three or four years, with the money coming from the BBC, which would you choose?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) That’s not the choice, is it? It is a fake choice, isn’t it, really?

Alun Cairns : (Translation) But that’s the current financial climate. So, either 40% cuts from DCMS or money from the BBC?

Chair: (Translation) Does anybody want to answer this question? You are welcome to. If not, I’ll turn to Siân James.

Q157 Mrs James: (Translation) I wanted to ask Ms Huws about what you said-that nobody had consulted with you and nobody had asked you for your opinion. However, in the evidence that you’ve submitted to us as a Committee, you say that what happens within S4C is not a matter for you-that the way in which S4C uses its resources is not a matter for you. But surely you have an opinion or a role. Surely it is fundamental to everything you do.

Meri Huws: (Translation) Constitutionally, that is the situation, but certainly we, as a Board, have a huge interest because we see the importance of broadcasting. I think, in moving forward from the current situation, we would appreciate and welcome more discussion with S4C as we move forward to look at the different challenges. Wales is changing. Wales is changing demographically. The world is changing technologically. That discussion has to be had. If S4C is part of the linguistic planning jigsaw, they have to discuss with other partners, not just other broadcasters.

Mrs James: (Translation) That’s fundamental to everything.

Q158 Guto Bebb: (Translation) That goes contrary to the evidence that you have submitted, which says that you don’t want to comment on what S4C does with its resources because if they were to broadcast rugby 24 hours a day-and some people in north Wales think that that is what they do anyway-there would be an impact on linguistic planning, you would agree. It’s therefore obvious that the Board has an opinion about what S4C does with its resources.

Meri Huws: (Translation) Yes, I have said that we have an opinion. We would appreciate any opportunity to share that opinion with S4C so that we can be part of that discussion about the Welsh language in Wales.

Guto Bebb: (Translation) So the statement in the evidence you submitted then is a little inaccurate.

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) In terms of our role, we agree a language plan with S4C. That is our statutory role.

Meri Huws: (Translation) Constitutionally, that is what we are there to do.

Q159 Guto Bebb: (Translation) I’ve got a question for both organisations. I will go ask the Welsh Language Society first. Is it realistic for S4C to be managed by the Welsh Assembly?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) Yes, technically S4C is accountable to DCMS, but, morally, people in Wales believe that it should be accountable to the Assembly. Certainly, when you see the four party leaders in Wales writing to the Prime Minister, who disregarded that letter and got Jeremy Hunt to reply, I think that’s the biggest insult possible to Wales and to our political situation in Wales.

Guto Bebb: (Translation) On that specific point about the letter to the Prime Minister, I thought it was perhaps a bit of an insult by the four party leaders to send it to him, not the relevant Secretary of State, but that’s my opinion. However, if you believe that the Assembly is where the future lies-and I’ve heard a lot of offensive comments about the way in which the Minister has treated S4C-it abolished the Welsh Development Authority without any consultation and we know that the Welsh Language Board is going to disappear, which will be a tragedy for linguistic planning. Do you seriously think that the Assembly really operates in a sacred way compared with the Government in London?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) The point relates to where the discussion about Welsh-language broadcasting-and English-language broadcasting-should take place. We think that the BBC should also be federated.

Chair: (Translation) Can I ask the Welsh Language Board on that point what you think about the idea?

Meri Huws: (Translation) What is important for the Welsh Language Board is ensuring sustainable arrangements: more than just three or four years of income for the channel to continue its work on linguistic planning. If there is a discussion about moving those arrangements to the Assembly, we can see some acceptable elements to that because it would sit within the Assembly’s comprehensive language strategy, but that is not the main concern.

Chair: (Translation) So you have no strong opinion at the moment?

Meri Huws: (Translation) We have strong opinion that we must ensure that S4C continues to be a viable broadcaster in Wales.

Q160 Chair: May I then ask the Welsh Language Society this? If you did devolve television and broadcasting to the Welsh Assembly Government, would you accept that the money for this would have to come from the licence payers in Wales, or would you expect licence fee payers in Birmingham to contribute towards Welsh-language television in English and Welsh?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) If we can refuse to pay taxes that go towards Trident, etcetera, then yes, fine.

Chair: I don’t think Trident is going to be part of the equation somehow, but we will have that argument another time. Does anyone else want to come in on this point?

Q161 Alun Cairns : (Translation) There is a coalition in the Assembly at the moment, and some may think that the coalition can look after S4C and show it some kind of bright future. If there were no a coalition in the Assembly in future, and one party dominated-who knows what party that may be?-would you be as confident about the future of the channel?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) The point about devolution is that I think it would have been impossible for the Assembly to treat S4C in the way that Jeremy Hunt has. It was a last-minute plan with no consultation. It was just a last-minute bargain with the BBC, and so there was a lack of consultation, which wouldn’t have happened, I think, under the Assembly.

Q162 Mrs James: (Translation) We’ve heard from the evidence that one way of saving money is by cutting the number of broadcast hours and having better programmes. But I would see fewer broadcast hours as a step backwards , because very often I put the television on to see something and see something that is being repeated. Do you think that that is the way forward, because I don’t?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) The Society is calling for a lot of changes in S4C and that’s why we want this independent review to take place, as the parties in Wales have called for. We want to see the channel reaching out to the Web and doing more digital things, bringing the Welsh language into the 21st century and the digital age. I think that is very important.

Meri Huws: (Translation) S4C needs to provide the broadest menu. There are several audiences there and provision has to be made, but they also need to consider different ways of broadcasting via new technology and the opportunities to work with agencies and bodies in Wales in a far more proactive way.

Q163 Jonathan Edwards: (Translation) Just very quickly on the argument about devolution. Geraint Talfan Davies made a very interesting point last week when he talked about different grades of devolution, perhaps not devolving the whole lot in terms of broadcasting. Can you see a situation in the future whereby all the broadcasters in Wales may be accountable to the Welsh Government and the British Government, not just one?

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) It is possible that that could happen. We, as a Society, believe that broadcasting should be devolved to Wales in its entirety. It is possible that what you suggest could happen, but the Society believes that the whole thing should be devolved.

Meirion Prys Jones: (Translation) Perhaps this process needs to be seen from the viewers’ point of view, rather than that of Government. For Welsh speakers, what is going to mean the best provision? We are responding to a situation where the nature and the type of Welsh speakers is changing considerably. The Welsh language, and its speakers, are nothing like they were 20 years ago. The report that we have just published on Aman and Tawe shows that without a shadow of a doubt. We need to see what system is suitable for those people.

Q164 Guto Bebb: Just to close, I want to go back to the point that the Assembly wouldn’t have made decisions in the way in which happened in the past few months, according to you. That doesn’t reflect the fact that the Assembly, for example, without consultation with anybody, has abolished the WDA. The economic consequences for the areas where Welsh is a minority language have been extreme. I also think that the Assembly has gone contrary to most people who know about the need for linguistic planning in its insistence on getting rid of the Welsh Language Board, so it is not showing that it’s accountable. Why do you think it would be more accountable to the people of Wales on S4C?

Menna Machreth: (Translation) There would be more consultation to begin with.

Guto Bebb: (Translation) But there was none about the WDA-none at all. It was announced that the WDA was going to be abolished by the Minister without any discussion.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) It is not for us to defend that decision.

Guto Bebb: (Translation) But you’ve made a claim.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Can I finish my point? I think that, in the debate leading up to devolution, there was talk of the "bonfire of the quangos", so it wasn’t as if there was no consultation about getting rid of the quangos. To go back to the point about S4C, it is very difficult to avoid the fact that nobody realised there was a plan to have joint management by the BBC over S4C until the day before the statement.

Alun Cairns : (Translation) New money for the channel-that was the purpose.

Colin Nosworthy: (Translation) Without consulting anyone.

Chair: (Translation) Thank you, everybody, for your attendance here today.