Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

S4C boss suggests English 'soundtrack' on 30th birthday

S4C is the only Welsh language television channel in the world Photo: S4C

S4C's Chief Executive Ian Jones has suggested the broadcaster may add an English language voiceover for some of its programmes that will be available via 'the red button.'

Ian Jones, who took over at the channel in April 2012, says it could help to broaden the reach of S4C.

Our strapline at the moment is something for everybody and as a unique as the only Welsh language channel in the world.

We have to appeal to those who are fluent in the Welsh language, less fluent, learners, those that are inspired to learn. If the content is out there and we can afford to do so, why not put an English language soundtrack on the red button and make the content available to everybody.

– Ian Jones, S4C's Chief Executive

As S4C celebrates 30 years on air, the Chief Executive of the Welsh language channel says it needs to "break out of that box in the corner of the room" and "provide content across all platforms". He says he's currently in discussion with the UK Government about changing S4C's remit to allow it to expand outside of traditional television broadcasting.

He told ITV Wales that S4C remains "very relevant - not only to Welsh speakers but to everybody in Wales", and that he believes it "will continue to be an integral part of the televisual and cultural landscape of Wales."

Here's our Correspondent Joanna Simpson's full interview with S4C Chief Executive Ian Jones.

S4C went on the air on Monday 1 November 1982 at 6pm. In the early days, 22 hours of Welsh language programmes were shown each week, alongside English programmes from Channel 4. Now, it shows around 125 hours of programme each week, all in Welsh.

The broadcaster is enduring cuts to its budget, which is falling from around £100 million per year in 2010 to £75 million in 2015. It has been funded primarily through a direct grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but, from next April, around 90% of its budget will come via the BBC licence fee. This has prompted concerns over a threat to S4C's independence.

What's fundamentally important in the agreement between S4C's authority and the BBC Trust, it's very clear that S4C is guaranteed operational or managerial independence, and editorial independence. I think that's quite fundamental - that the decision-making, regardless of where the funding comes from, will remain within S4C.

– Ian Jones, S4C Chief Executive

Managers are also looking at plans to decentralise S4C's locations, with the option of three main sites around Wales. At the moment, the headquarters is at Llanishen in Cardiff, with a much smaller office in Caernarfon.

The road that led to the creation of a Welsh language channel three decades ago was certainly bumpy. When, in 1979, the new Conservative government announced it would not establish one, the Welsh language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, began a long campaign to see that decision reversed, while Plaid Cymru's Gwynfor Evans threatened to go on hunger strike. They were successful. S4C was established in the Broadcasting Acts of 1980/81, which also led to the creation of Channel 4.

The iconic cartoon series 'SuperTed' was shown on the opening night, while animations Famous Fred and the Canterbury Tales are also part of a formidable archive. The epic film Hedd Wyn, shown on S4C in 1992, was the first Welsh language production to be nominated for an Oscar, and Solomon a Gaenor followed in its footsteps, also missing out in the foreign language film category in 2000. Daily soap Pobol y Cwm has been shown since the 1980s, as one of a number of programmes commissioned from BBC Cymru Wales. Independent producers from around Wales make much of the channel's content. HTV Wales and latterly ITV Wales have been producing programmes for S4C over the 30 years. Current affairs series Y Byd ar Bedwar is a prominent example, having been on the air since 1982.

Geraint Talfan Davies was involved from the start, as the Head of News and Current Affairs at HTV Wales. He's now the Chairman of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, and says the presence of S4C has been of great benefit for the Welsh language, but also for English language broadcasting in Wales.