S4C fights decision for merger with the BBC

John Walter Jones, Chairman of S4C

The 19th annual VLV (Voice of the Listener and Viewer) Conference in association with Edinburgh Napier and Stirling University takes place today at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

Speakers include John Walter Jones, chairman of S4C and Donald Campbell from MG Alba. The VLV Scottish Conference will compare and contrast the state of broadcasting in Scotland and Wales, just weeks after the controversial licence fee settlement.

The Scottish Director of VLV, the University of Stirling’s Dr Matthew Hibberd, is quoted in a statement issued by the organisers, as saying: “There are major worries that the general economic climate and financial cuts contained in the funding settlement will have a very negative impact on the range and quality of programmes in Scotland and Wales.”

The cuts, made on 20th October of this year, are to ‘deliver certainty and stability for the BBC and licence fee payers through to 2016/17’ according to Sir Michael Lyons, current chairman of the BBC Trust. It has been described as a ‘tough settlement.’

As part of the new deal, S4C will now be part-funded, following similar principles to the BBC Alba service in Scotland.

S4C chairman John Walter Jones and the S4C Authority is unanimous in its desire to seek a Judicial Review of Jeremy Hunt’s plans and the way it was handled; a decision that many feel has damaged the BBC’s reputation:

“My main concern is about the independence of S4C. We find ourselves losing status through the BBC having control of our funding.

“The decision was taken so quickly, and no-one had previously spoken to S4C. I am very concerned. Things next year will be very different from this year.”

Broadcasting north of the border also faces a number of challenges.

The question of quality content remains a significant challenge to be addressed by the projected licence fee, standing in at only £5million per year for content in Scotland alone.

Programmes such as the Weakest Link – which recently moved to studios in Glasgow – is one of the programmes that is reviewed in relation to cultural representation, a key issue Robert Beveridge, lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, raises:

“It is not evident that the Weakest Link from Glasgow adds much value to Scotland in terms of cultural representation and national identity, although for obvious reasons it was probably wise for the BBC not to transfer production and Anne Robinson to BBC Wales.

“The Weakest Link is not a Scottish programme. We need to ask – what is best for viewers and listeners in and across Scotland and Wales.”