Pre-appointment hearing with the Government’s preferred candidate for the Chair of S4C Contents

1Appointment of the Chair of S4C

Introduction: Pre-appointment hearings

1.In its July 2007 Green Paper, The Governance of Britain, the then UK Government proposed the introduction of pre-appointment hearings for key public appointments for which Parliament has a particularly strong interest. The list of posts which the Government considers suitable for pre-appointment hearings is set out in Annex A to the Cabinet Office publication, Guidance on pre-appointment scrutiny by House of Commons Select Committees. The outcome of pre-appointment hearings is not binding on the Government, although the report of the Committee holding the hearing should inform Ministers’ decision making on whether to proceed.1

2.On 20 January 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced that Rhodri Williams was the Government’s preferred candidate to be the Chair of S4C.2 The previous Chair, Huw Jones left the organisation on 30 September 2019 and Hugh Hesketh Evans, a board member of S4C, is currently the interim Chair. We held our pre-appointment hearing with Mr Williams on 17 March 2020.


3.S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru – Channel Four Wales) was established in 1982 under the Broadcasting Act 1981 and is now regulated by the Broadcasting Act 1990 and Communications Act 2003.3

4.Initially, S4C produced 22 hours of Welsh language programmes every week alongside English programmes from Channel 4. Today, S4C is a wholly Welsh language channel broadcasting over 115 hours of programmes each week. Independent producers from across Wales are commissioned to make the majority of its programmes. ITV Cymru Wales produces some of S4C’s programmes and BBC Cymru Wales provides around 10 hours of content per week.4

5.The Public Bodies Act 2011 places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to secure that S4C is paid an amount that he or she considers sufficient to enable S4C to cover the cost of providing its public services.5 S4C is currently funded through a mixture of grant in aid, funding from the Television Licence Fee through the BBC and advertising and commercial revenue. The Licence Fee contributes £74.5m annually to S4C (from 2017/18 to 2021/22). Following the independent review of S4C by Euryn Ogwen Williams, published in March 2018, the amount DCMS paid to the broadcaster in 2018/19 remained at £6.762m. S4C also generates commercial revenues through activities including advertising sales and programme sponsorship. Its commercial activities contribute an average of approximately £2m per year to S4C’s public service fund.6

6.From 2022/23, all public money for S4C will come from the licence fee and will be decided in the licence fee settlement. This was one of the recommendations made in the review.7

The governance of S4C and the role of the Chair

7.Following the review of S4C, its governance is now based on a Unitary Board model (in place of the previous non-exec Authority Board). Until primary legislation is introduced to facilitate a number of elements of the proposed structure, the Board shall operate as a Shadow Unitary Board in accordance with the Board’s new Standing Orders. The appointed Chair is expected to continue into the role of Chair of the statutory board when it is constituted.

8.It is the duty of S4C’s Board to ensure that S4C’s television and online services represent a public service for the dissemination of information, education and entertainment. The Board is responsible for ensuring that effective corporate governance and management arrangements, including financial management, are in place for S4C’s public and commercial services. The Board is also responsible for ensuring that the independence of S4C is safeguarded.

9.The S4C Board must have a detailed understanding of online and broadcasting developments and of devolved government in Wales and take into account cultural and other initiatives when determining its strategy.

10.The Chair shares the responsibilities of the Board and is expected to:

11.In the information sent to candidates, the Government stated that the successful candidate would need to demonstrate the following essential criteria:

The appointment will be for an initial term of four years. After that period, the appointment may be extended, subject to review. The job requires a time commitment equivalent to two days per week and carries a salary of £40,000 per annum.

Recruitment process

12.Mr Williams was selected from an open recruitment exercise. The advisory assessment panel for the campaign was chaired by Robert Specterman-Green, Director, Creative and Media Industries, DCMS; Hugh Hesketh Evans, S4C Board Member; Libby Watkins, the senior independent panel member; Ashok Ahir, representing the Wales Office; and Hywel Owen, the Welsh Government’s representative. According to the information supplied by DCMS, five applications were received for the role (two female and three male candidates), of which three were shortlisted for interview (two male and one female candidate). Interviews were held on 18 September 2019.

Rhodri Williams, the Government’s preferred candidate

The candidate’s background

13.Rhodri Williams has been a member of S4C’s Authority Board and Shadow Unitary Board since July 2018. Previously, he was Ofcom’s first director in Wales responsible for establishing the organisation’s presence in Wales and its relationship with all stakeholders, including the National Assembly for Wales, the Welsh Government and the Wales Office. He has also been Chair of the Welsh Language Board and co-founded Agenda Television, one of Wales’ largest independent production companies. He currently holds a number of non-executive appointments which include: Visiting Professor, University of South Wales; Chair of Gwent Independent Film Trust; Member of Welsh Government Next Generation Broadband Wales Programme Board; and Member of Welsh Government Public Sector Broadband Aggregation Project Board.10

Our evidence

14.In line with the guidance produced by the Liaison Committee on the conduct of pre-appointment hearings, our questioning was intended to test the professional competence and personal independence of the candidate. In particular, we questioned Rhodri Williams about the following specific matters:

a)His motivations for the role, past experience and priorities;

b)The recruitment process and his personal independence;

c)The review of S4C, including the funding of S4C;

d)His ability to deal and negotiate with ministers;

e)Experience of scrutinising commercial investment decisions;

f)Challenges and opportunities;

The Committee’s view on the suitability of the candidate

15.Rhodri Williams has held a number of relevant senior posts in his career, including as Wales Director at Ofcom and he is currently a non-executive member of S4C’s Shadow Unitary Board. Given the previous Committee’s work on the review of S4C, we were keen to ensure that the candidate has the necessary attributes to guide S4C through the challenges and opportunities it presents. The Committee notes that the position of Chair of S4C requires a time commitment equivalent to two days per week. We are confident that Mr Williams recognises the time commitment required for this post and will ensure that the demands of his other interests do not conflict with his role as S4C Chair. Mr Williams was able to reassure us that he understands the current issues facing the broadcaster and has a clear vision for the future. We welcome his commitment to introducing new talent, fresh perspectives and increasing diversity on the board as well as recognising the importance of culture. He is committed to furthering the interests of the Welsh language, forging and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, and we welcome Mr Williams' commitments to achieving his priorities.

16.We are satisfied that Rhodri Williams has demonstrated the high degree of professional competence and personal independence required for the post. We recommend that the Government proceed with the appointment. We wish Mr Williams well in his new post and we look forward to working with him in the future.

1 Liaison Committee, Pre-Appointment Hearings, Third Report of Session 2017–19, 19 June 2019 [HC 2307]

2 HM Government, Preferred candidate selected for S4C Chair, 20 January 2020

4 S4C, Introducing S4C (accessed 10 March 2020)

5 Public Bodies Act 2011, s.31

8 Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, S4C Chair Final Role Specification, April 2019

9 Ibid.

10 Appendix 1

Published: 19 March 2020