Minister calls on UK Government to face up to its obligations on S4C

Alun Ffred Jones AM has called on the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to face up to their obligations towards S4C in a statement to the Senedd today (22.09.2010). Wales’ Heritage Minister made the statement following information that has created doubts about claims made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that S4C volunteered funding cuts.

Pressure has mounted on Jeremy Hunt MP, the UK coalition Secretary of State for Culture, after his claims in a parliamentary response to Jonathan Edwards on June 8th that cuts were “mutually agreed,” were in contrast to comments made by the chairman of S4C in a letter to him on May 21st and again on May 25th.

Minister for Heritage Alun Ffred Jones AM said:

“S4C provides an essential component of UK public service broadcasting and is at the heart of the creative industries in Wales.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP to express concern over the £2m cuts to the S4C budget announced earlier this year. I have sought reassurances that these cuts do not result in S4C’s funding falling below the amount calculated in the Broadcasting Act 1990 and I have asked for a meeting which will take place next week.

S4C was created by statute to ensure the organisation’s long term stability and independence and to avoid annual wrangling over the Welsh language. Its duties, responsibilities and its funding arrangements were laid down in law for very good reason. DCMS should not ignore its statutory obligations towards the channel – and neither cannot it forget that S4C is a Public Service Broadcaster not a Government Department or non-departmental government body.

We will continue to argue that the principles upon which S4C was established under the Broadcasting Act are not abandoned – that this contract with the people of Wales is not broken.”

Jonathan Edwards MP added:

“I am very pleased that Wales’ Heritage Minister has taken this issue head on and will be meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP next week. Alun Ffred is completely correct to highlight that DCMS should not be allowed to ignore its obligations towards S4C.
There are a number of questions that the UK Secretary of State must answer in relation to the future of funding for S4C and his handling of this matter.”

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM welcomed an apology in the National Assembly by Liberal Democrat spokesperson Eleanor Burnham, for her previous misleading comments regarding the proposed cuts to S4Cs budget.

Ms Burnham had described S4C as a government department, and supported the need for the major cuts in its budget. However, she today apologised to the National Assembly for her comments, pledging to support the future of the channel in future.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM added:

“I’m glad that the Liberal Democrats have see the error of their ways and have apologised for their original comments. However, as a party of government in Westminster, it is their job to ensure that S4C is not treated unfairly. I look forward to a change of tack by their government.”

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