Calls for S4C chair to be replaced after appearance before Welsh Affairs Committee

Parliament TV, ITV Cymru and PA
Stephen Crabb, chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster, has written to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer recommending Rhodri Williams is replaced at the helm. Credit: Parliament TV, ITV Cymru Wales and PA

Senior MPs have called on the Government to replace the chair of scandal-hit television channel S4C following the dismissal of two senior executives amid claims of a toxic culture at the organisation.

Stephen Crabb, chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster, has written to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer recommending Rhodri Williams is replaced at the helm of the Welsh language broadcaster.

It comes after Mr Williams and another non-executive board member appeared before the committee to give evidence about the sackings of the chief executive and chief content officer last year.

In the letter, Mr Crabb said: “The committee was concerned by some of the evidence we heard, in particular regarding the effective leadership and governance of the organisation.

“Following the session, the committee remains concerned about the ability of the current leadership to oversee the changes required to rebuild trust at all levels of the organisation and with its wider stakeholders.

“Given the importance of S4C and the scale of the challenges with respect to improving governance and culture within the organisation, we recommend that the Government appoint a new chair to take this work forward.”

Sian Doyle was sacked as chief executive in November last year after a report, which was commissioned by the board and compiled by law firm Capital Law, criticised the culture at the channel.

Her dismissal came a month after Llinos Griffin-Williams was sacked after serious allegations were made about her conduct in France during the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Williams said Ms Doyle was axed by a unanimous decision of the board while he sacked Ms Griffin-Williams for gross misconduct – a decision the board later ratified.

The committee heard the report was commissioned after trade union Bectu raised concerns about a “culture of fear” at S4C and a line had now been drawn under the episode, Mr Williams said.

Mr Crabb asked Mr Williams whether he felt he had “failed” in his four years at the helm to change the culture at S4C.

“I think yes is the answer to that. The Capital Law report paints a picture of the culture within the organisation,” he said.

“If we look at the last 12 months, there is no way anybody could say the culture within the organisation has been a healthy one.

“The Capital Law report makes it very clear where the responsibility for that lies and I don’t think it is with me or the board.

“The Capital Law report states very clearly that the chief executive at the time acted in a confrontational, abusive and inconsiderate manner and I think that’s where the failure has been in terms of the management of the organisation.

“When it became clear to us as non-executive members of the board the extent of those problems – the toxic culture, the culture of fear that existed within the organisation – then we acted very quickly to put in place a process that provided safety and security to members of staff wishing to step up.

“Once that was done the non-executive members of the board acted decisively and quickly to terminate the chief executive’s employment and I am confident that was the right decision and I think throughout this we have done the best in the interests of the staff of S4C and also in the interests of the organisation as a whole.”

Members of the committee questioned the lack of “natural justice” in dismissing Ms Doyle before she had seen the report and suggested he acted like “judge, jury and executioner”, which Mr Williams rejected.

After it was published in December, Ms Doyle took an overdose and required hospital treatment.

Mr Williams said he would like to serve a second term as chair but the decision lay with the Culture Secretary.

Mr Crabb suggested that maybe it was time for a “clean start” and in the “best interests” of the channel for him to move on.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…