Sacked S4C boss calls for government to step in

Huw John Cardiff
Former S4C Chief Executive Sian Doyle Credit: Huw John Cardiff

Dismissed S4C chief executive Sian Doyle has issued a public statement calling on the UK Government to step in amid turbulence at the Welsh language broadcaster.

Ms Doyle was dismissed after an investigation into bullying allegations at the publicly-funded channel, with S4C saying in a statement issued on Friday that the decision was taken after "detailed legal advice following a fact-finding exercise undertaken by Capital Law".

The review was initiated following serious concerns of a toxic culture within S4C, raised by BECTU in April 2023.

An S4C Authority statement said "the evidence we have seen reflects the views and experiences of 96 people who are current or former staff of S4C or partners with whom the organisation works. We would like to thank those who felt able to come forward for their openness and willingness in sharing their experiences.

"The nature and weight of the evidence provided was deeply troubling. It has undoubtedly been a challenging time for many individuals. As Members of the Authority, we would like to apologise for the stress and anguish caused by behaviours experienced in the workplace."

They say, having received "detailed legal advice", "members of the S4C Authority made the difficult but unanimous decision to terminate the employment of the chief executive. We will work towards appointing a new leader who can help restore an ambitious S4C with a renewed focus on collaboration and the well-being of our colleagues."

But Ms Doyle strongly refutes the authority's version of events.

Responding to her dismissal, Ms Doyle's representatives have issued a public statement.

The statement issued by the former chief executive Sian Doyle on Friday evening includes: "S4C is a remarkable organisation, and it has been an honour to be its CEO and lead a team of talented and committed professionals over the last two years.

"Today, I was dismissed by the chairman of S4C, Rhodri Williams, in what I believe is an unprecedented lack of governance for a public body. I was dismissed by letter, without notice, without a meeting, without seeing a copy of the Capital Law report or any evidence, without a right of appeal, and without proper grounds.

"The job of a female CEO in this organisation has proved difficult at best and downright demoralising at worst, and I have been prevented from delivering the necessary programme of transformation.

"I joined S4C because members of the Board persuaded me to come out of retirement after a 30-year international career to create positive change. My mandate as CEO was to take S4C’s extraordinary programming and the Welsh language to the world, to prepare S4C for a digital future, and to transform the organisation.

"I am very proud of what S4C has achieved under my leadership. In the last 12 months S4C peak time viewing increased by 16%; the channel’s weekly audience reach in Wales increased by 8% - the best performance in 5 years; S4C’s share of younger viewers aged 16–44 is at its highest for 10 years; the channel has retained its older viewers; and perception of S4C has gone up across all of Wales – not just with Welsh speakers. My team signed S4C’s first-ever deal with Netflix which carried our acclaimed drama, Dal y Mellt (Rough Cut), and we worked with Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds to introduce ‘Welsh Wednesdays’ on his Maximum Effort channel. Maximum Effort now carries 6 hours of Welsh programming every week, enabling S4C to invest in yet more Welsh talent and programming and putting Welsh talent proudly on the world stage.

"I was so passionate about continuing this journey and delivering the mandate set by the Board, and I am enormously sad that this opportunity has today been taken away from me.

"The question that S4C’s Board, the Secretary of State for DCMS Lucy Frazer, and the Welsh Government now need to answer is this: is it right that a public body committed to such a high standard of governance still be led by the current Chair."

The S4C statement adds: "It is clear from the evidence received that action needs to be taken to secure change within S4C, and there is still much work to do to deal with all the issues arising from the information received. The S4C Authority is committed to ensuring that S4C is a place where our staff are happy and safe – a place where they feel able to perform at their best and thrive. We recognise that we need to restore confidence and trust in the organisation – not only amongst our staff but with our partners in the creative sector, audiences in Wales and beyond.

"This is a sensitive matter, and we must follow due process. As the S4C Authority we need to carefully balance our obligations in relation to transparency with the well-being of those involved, and it would be inappropriate to add anything to this statement at this time about the decision announced today.

"In due course, we will publish a report that explains further the nature of the evidence received during the fact-finding process, decisions made and steps we will be taking to ensure that S4C provides a positive and thriving working environment."

ITV News has asked S4C and the authority's chair Rhodri Williams to respond to Ms Doyle's comments. Tonight, S4C has told ITV that they are not commenting further.

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