Devil’s in the detail when it comes to broadcasting cuts

Media stories are like buses in Wales – there’s none for ages and then a whole run of them arrive at your feet.  No sooner has the new chair of S4C, Huw Jones, been announced, and the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published its report into the BBC license fee settlement with discussion of the new relationship with S4C, than leaks to the press emerge about the likely scale of cuts within the BBC.  Unless you work in the industry or are a bit of a policy wonk there’s no reason to fully apprehend the scale of what is being contemplated and what it might mean for you and I as citizens, viewers and listeners. The cuts to S4C stand at around 25% whilst leaks suggest the BBC is looking for cuts of about 20%. No one could imagine this scale of cut can be achieved without impact on programming.

More intriguing (well, for some of us…) is what the relationship might be between these cuts. Will the new arrangement between the BBC and S4C mean that they in effect form a single budget? If so, will the BBC’s 20% cuts be on top of the 25% cuts to S4C? Will there be any kind of ring-fencing of the budget for S4C as opposed to BBC Wales? What will be the fate of English-language BBC  Wales programming and the opt-out service in this new climate? In an IWA essay, Geraint Talfan Davies argues that, ‘if the funding of S4C is brought within a BBC commitment “to represent all nations equally” – a commitment that I have not seen expressed before – then there can be only one result: further reductions in the budgets of either S4C or BBC Wales’s English language services for Wales or, more likely, both’.  For those of you reading this who work or hope to work in the Welsh independent production sector, this probably adds to your existing concerns about the future of this vitally important Welsh creative industry. These could be some of the questions in the audiences’ mind on June 16-17th when First Minister, Carwyn Jones, opens this year’s Cyfrwng conference at Atrium, University of Glamorgan.

Dr Ruth McElroy, May 27, 2011

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