Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by S4C



  International links make an important contribution towards the cultural and commercial aims and achievements of S4C. S4C believes that it benefits from the wider efforts to promote Wales abroad. Through its programmes, it also believes that it has an important contribution to make to these efforts. S4C, therefore, takes a close interest in initiatives aimed at improving the promotion of Wales overseas. S4C welcomes this inquiry by the Select Committee.

  The Broadcasting Act 1996 extended S4C's freedom to participate in and initiate commercial ventures in fields related to television. As laid down by the Act, S4C has established separate public and general funds so as to provide a clear distinction between public funds and those derived from commercial activities. Commercial ventures are not subsidised by public funds, but the proceeds of commercial activities can be transferred, through the general fund, for the purpose of enhancing S4C's public service. In 1999, commercial activities delivered an operating profit of 5.9 million out of which 3.1 million was transferred to the public service fund. S4C's commercial activities are pursued by a wholly owned subsidiary company, S4C Masnachol Cyf.


  International programme sales are an important element of S4C's commercial activities. These are pursued by S4C Masnachol's sales arm, S4C Rhyngwladol. S4C Rhyngwladol attends a range of international programme fairs with a view to promoting these sales. These include MIP in Cannes in April, MIP Com in Cannes in October, and the NATPE event in the United States during January. These are major international events. They attract large numbers of organisations and individuals involved in the purchase and sale of television programmes. S4C has achieved considerable success at these fairs. During 1999, S4C Rhyngwladol achieved 196 international programme sales compared to 103 in 1998. A list of the countries that have purchased some of S4C's most successful international exports is attached at Annex A. S4C incurs significant costs in attending such events. S4C would be interested in any wider UK initiative aimed at promoting UK derived programmes at these and other events overseas so long as this did not interfere with S4C's commercial freedom to generate maximum benefit from these events.


  S4C is also involved in a wide range of international co-productions. International co-production partners are sought actively so as to expand production budgets, improve production values and to ensure that producers in Wales can work to the highest international standards. Some 35 co-productions were arranged in 1999. The international programme fairs (MIP, etc) provide excellent opportunities to develop and extend these partnership arrangements.


  As well as being commercially beneficial, S4C believes that its international programme sales and co-productions provide an important boost to the image of Wales overseas. All sorts of programmes can have an impact but S4C believes that Wales derives particular benefits from high profile successes such as the Oscar nominated feature films Hedd Wyn and Solomon and Gaenor. There is also a growing appreciation of Wales' animation industry following a succession of critically acclaimed and widely distributed international animation series. The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare-The Animated Tales and The Miracle Maker have all been initiated in Wales and heavily dependent on animation and technical expertise located in Wales. S4C's latest animation co-production, involving partners in 26 countries altogether is thought to be a record.


  S4C will continue to engage in a range of international activities aimed at generating income to support its key public service broadcasting aims. S4C would be pleased to be part of any wider initiative for promoting Wales overseas which served to further these aims.

John Howells

18 October 2000

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