Examination of Witnesses (Questions 147
TUESDAY 16 JANUARY 2001
147. Good morning. We are going to have to be
very speedy, I am afraid. Thank you very much for coming and may
I thank you for the informal presentation we had last night about
the issues that you wanted to tell us about, which was very useful
indeed to further our questioning. Everybody knows what S4C isin
Wales, at any ratebut perhaps you could introduce yourselves
for the purposes of the record.
(Prof Stephens) Since we are a Welsh
language channel, I would like to make a very brief initial presentation
in the Welsh language, and then answer questions in the language
as they occur, if that is all right with you. Thank you for the
invitation here today. Very briefly, my name is Elan Closs Stephens.
I am the Chair of S4C and, in my other capacity, I am professor
in the University of Aberystwyth. On my right is the Chief Executive,
Huw Jones, and on my left Wyn Innes, the managing director of
S4C. We did give you a presentation last night, but, just for
the record, I thought that very briefly I would make a few points
about S4C. S4C, from its very beginning in 1982, has always taken
positive steps to market its programming internationally. One
has only to recall the very first night and the appearance of
Superted who was later sold to Hanna-Barbera in America. By 1990
we had a ten year strategy for animation and overseas sales which
came to a sort of climax with the Miracle Maker, which took about
four years to produce and which was shown on ABC on Easter Sunday
of the Millennium. One of the lessons that we have learned, I
am sure, is that we need forward planning, and very careful forward
planning. By 1996 we had to raise additional funds commercially
under the 1996 Broadcasting Act, and this meant advertising money
and sponsorship, and it also meant that quite a substantial amount
of money comes from co-productions. Very briefly, co-production,
I believe, does a lot of things for S4C. It creates product on
the screen for our home viewers which is perhaps more costly than
we would be able to produce otherwise. It also gives independent
producers the experience to work with more extensive budgets.
It also enables us to create our own films since we cannot buy
from US film libraries without dubbing or subtitling and very
often our bilingual audience will have seen such films anyway.
But the side effect of this activity is that we also market ourselves
and Wales overseas. Therefore, we greatly welcome this inquiry
and we look forward to your recommendations. We appreciate the
fact that United Kingdom Members of Parliament look after our
type of company, which is perhaps between two masters; that is,
we serve Wales and yet we are part of the British broadcasting
ecology. But certainly we need every support to enhance performance.
148. A number of organisations, including the
National Assembly for Wales, have suggested to us that Wales does
not enjoy a high profile overseas. Do you agree, and, if so, what
is to be done about that?
(Mr Innes) I think from a media perspective we do
enjoy a significant reputation. I think S4C International in the
fields in which it specialises, that of animation, factual programming
and children's programming, does enjoy a good reputation worldwide.
If I take, for example, the United States (being the largest economy),
we work in co-production or in international programme sales with
a number of the big broadcasters there. Earlier we mentioned Miracle
Maker which was sold to ABC in Easter 2000 and again in 2001.
That was seen by 15 million viewers in the United States. We have
co-produced with ANE, with HBO, with Discovery networks. We entered
into a series of Super Ted, the fourth series of Super Ted with
Hanna Barbera. The Gogs' programmes that we made were made in
co-production with Warner Vision. So we do have an international
reputation, just taking that one country as an example. Definitely
in the media world, and in the spheres of particular interest
and concentration for S4C International, we enjoy a profile which
I believe is born from the quality of our product.
149. We heard last night from the Irish Consulate
that Ireland deliberately target people of Irish extraction in
the United States and beyond, systematically, to make sure that
they are aware of their Irish roots and to see if they can do
any benefit for the home economy. Has anything been done in the
media world on that? Have you identified key media people, key
film people of Welsh extraction in the United Kingdom and in the
United States and, indeed, in Wales, to make sure that you fully
exploit those for the benefit of Wales?
(Mr Jones) As you know, we are partners in Sgrin (the
Media Agency for Wales). One of the things that Sgrin has done
at intervals in the past is to set up events; for example, in
Hollywood, coinciding with the Oscar nomination for Solomon and
Gaenor last year, where that was a showcase for Welsh presence
in film, which drew on as many people of Welsh extraction in Hollywood
and in the TV industry in the States as could be tapped. I think
the Irish have always had the great advantage of a very large
diaspora, whereas the Welsh diaspora is considerably smaller.
I think the benefits of tapping into that diaspora are, therefore,
consequentially less in Wales, although I think we would recognise
that when we can use them we do. Howard Springer, for example,
who is now head of Sony US, has been over to Wales over the last
year for a conference which was held on how to make the Welsh
media industry in general more successful and he made an interesting
contribution. But, at the end of the day, the market out there
is an international market and I think our view is that the way
we can be most successful is by addressing that international
market in its entirety, rather than simply that part of it which
happens to be made up of the Welsh diaspora.
(Prof Stephens) I wonder if I could add, Chris, that
I think the United Kingdom networks also could do more in showing
films and in commissioning work from the independentsand
I am sure the BBC and HTV would wish to say the same thing. Because
quite often there is a large mechanism at work, whether it is
BBC Worldwide or obviously the Channel 4 mechanism which sells
on overseas, and it would be very helpful, I think, to be more
of a part of those sort of networks as well.
150. Do you think there is a role specifically
for us on that, perhaps, as a committee, interviewing the BBC,
or, as individuals, having meetings with the BBC, to see what
they can do?
151. (Prof Stephens) I think, as the
communications White Paper is going through -and subsequently
there will be legislation (in the Autumn, perhaps, or the new
year)the whole issue of regionality and how that is portrayed,
not just as opt-outs but actually on the screen for the whole
of the United Kingdom, is quite an issue which perhaps you would
be able to take an interest in.
152. Another potential contact for you is Paul
Higginson, who is Vice-President of 20th Century Fox finance in
Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He is a personal friend of
mine and I know he would be willing to meet with you. He actually
brought the Premier to North Wales just before Christmas.
(Prof Stephens) Yes, that is right.
153. Also, you say that S4C benefits from the
wider efforts to promote Wales abroad. Can you explain how and
give us some specific examples?
(Mr Jones) I think Wyn could pick up there on some
of the things that we have done on the back of some of the WDA's
initiatives, for example.
(Mr Innes) Yes. We went on a trade mission to Japan
recently with the First Minister of the Assembly and we found
that very useful indeed. It was the first time that we had participated
in such a mission and we found that having that subsidy allowed
us to participate in a sales trip that we may not have participated
in otherwise. We did use it for our own benefit: we did spin-off
from the trade mission, to go to Osaka and to South Korea, where
we have a particular strength at the moment in selling our product
internationally. So we did find that very useful. In terms of
other help given to the United Kingdom industry, we are going
to NATPE in Las Vegas on Thursday. We will be part of the British
Pavilion there. There is some subsidy given to the participation
from United Kingdom broadcasters at the Pavilion, the biggest
of whom is the BBC, who will be represented by BBC Worldwide.
So we do enjoy some benefits from existing work that is done by
either central government or by the Assembly.
(Mr Jones) Could I also mention the importance of
bringing international events to Wales. We were listening to the
WRU just now and the same thing happens in the cultural and media
arena. We are very hopeful that a major international conference
on animation or cartoons will come to Wales in 2002, and this
would entail bringing some 800 delegates, major players in the
international animation industry. A location in North Wales has
been identified and support, we hope, will be forthcoming from
a number of Welsh agencies. If that would happen, that would be
a very important part of confirming the place of Wales at the
very centre of the international animation industry. I would commend
that sort of initiative to your attention.
154. Have you had the support of those agencies?
We have heard previously that the support was not there or was
(Mr Jones) I believe that the work is close to completion
but the likelihood is that there are some gaps left to be filled.
We cannot, at this point in time, sign off on it.
(Mr Innes) There is a meeting on 6 February that ought
to move that forward significantly.
(Prof Stephens) After that, it will be easier, of
course, to bring all the agencies in Wales together. I think one
of the points I would make is that, in the submission to you from
the Welsh Assembly, they obviously cover those bodies which fall
under their jurisdiction, and there is always a danger that other
areas which are not devolved do not fall within the box, as it
were. So I would hope that we can bein fact we areas
pro-active as possible in making certain that we have meetings
with the Minister for Economic Development, for example, with
the Minister for Culture in the Assembly, to make certain pro-actively
that we are included in trade missions and all sorts of activities.
I would say that perhaps one of the lessons we also learned is
that you can never just sit back and assume that people will look
after you. I think all bodies in Waleswe are a very small
countryhave to be as pro-active as possible on all fronts.
155. Do you think there is any role for the
United Kingdom Government or increased role for the United Kingdom
Government in promotion of Wales?
(Prof Stephens) I have always thought personally on
a more philosophical argument, that the United Kingdom Government
should be more proud and perhaps more willing to speak up about
its pride in the way that it has looked after a minority indigenous
language in Wales. When one compares this with the treatment,
say, of Breton on screen in France, it is something to take pride
in. Sometimes I think there is a slight fear of treading on the
toes of a devolved government. I am sure that your role as members
of Parliament, flagging up these sort of issues and making sure
that all trade missions, all DTI activity, all Foreign Office
and ambassadorial activity always contains Wales, would be a major
Chairman: That is the kind of thing we are looking
156. We do attract some world class events to
Wales; for example, Cardiff Singer of the World. But do you think
the same point could be made that was made earlier about the attraction
of Welsh sporting events, that perhaps the agencies, the Tourist
Board, the Welsh Development Agency, yourselves and the Assembly,
could be more coordinated in attracting major cultural events
to Wales than they have been up until now?
(Prof Stephens) One must remember that it is early
days as well, is it not?you know, we have a devolved government
for the first time. One hopes that from now on it will be easier
to coordinate all these activities. I think the Post-16 Committee
report which came out recently in the Assembly, the idea of Cymru'n
Creu in the Dwylliant Cytun (A Culture in Common) report, went
down the path of showing the benefits of cooperation between arts
councils and various cultural bodies. So, yes, we would be happy
to participate in such a cooperative venture.
157. Can I move on to say that you talk a lot
about the importance of programme sales internationally as a way
of raising the profile of Wales overseas and your memorandum mentions
Biblical and Shakespearean animation series. How many programmes
do you sell abroad which a foreign viewer would recognise as characteristically
(Mr Jones) I think it varies. There are some productions
which are very Welsh in nature. In the early days I remember Joni
Jones, a drama series, being sold to a number of Scandinavian
countries. Recently we have seen Solomon and Gaenor which tells
the history of Wales. It was nominated for an Oscar and was seen
in cinemas across the world. A series like the historical one
about the Celts tells a lot of our history. It puts our own perspective
on our history to other countries and throws new light on what
the Celts are, and that Wales is part of the Celtic world, not
just Scotland and Ireland. Hedd Wyn is another example. And the
animation, as you have said, varies. It contains some Welsh characters
such as Sam Tan at Ponty Pandy and Sali Malivery important
figures. Then you have the animated features Tales of the World,
which is something we have commissioned in presenting their own
stories, and a Story from Wales is one of them. Whilst our ability
to make large products such as The Bible leads then to our ability
to make the next big project which is Mabinogian, a totally Welsh
film, and that will take a part of our culture across the world.
But a true part of our culture, I believe, is that we must try
to set a high national standard as our main aim in our product
for the international market, knowing that, if we do succeed,
we will inevitably bring Welsh topics on to the table. Put generally,
it will always be a mix, but we must have an industry in Wales,
a cultural industry which can compete on an equitable level, so
that we have the right to take our stories to the rest of the
(Prof Stephens) I would also add that, although the
story perhaps is not Welsh always, the S4C brand is Welsh. Therefore,
very often, whatever the topic, we sell this name. Wyn mentioned
last night that the Welsh flag is part of each stall where we
are internationally, therefore we do sell ourselves as a channel
from Wales, whatever the topic is.
(Ms Jones) It is important to us, perhaps, that that
is the part of the process, and, also, even on programmes, for
example the Miracle Maker, at the end of the film the first credit
is "Made and produced in Wales and Moscow" and that
is important to repeat. The message then reaches the viewer.
158. The Welsh Language Board says that the
Welsh language is one of the strongest and one of the most emotive
links between people of Welsh origin and Wales, even if they do
not speak the language themselves. How easy is it to find a market
for Welsh language films and programmes outside of Wales?
(Mr Jones) Our prime task, of course, is to create
a Welsh language television service: programmes are in Welsh for
the benefit of the audience at home. What we sell on the international
market is primarily English language versions of those programmes.
It is the culture which is contained in the programme which, if
you like, is the selling point; not inherently the language in
which the original version is made. And this is part of the process
of addressing an international market in an extensive medium.
We have had some success in selling Welsh programmes with subtitles.
I think it is very interesting to see in very recent times the
growing willingness to accept foreign language films within the
mainstream American and British markets. The new film by Ang Lee,
a Chinese film, has had wonderful reviews. It is entirely in Chinese,
and this, I think, will make it easier for all programme makers
and film makers who want to produce films and programmes in their
own language to address an international market, but the quality
has to be good. So we come back all the time to this point about
the quality. I think what is interesting is that we are also inherently
contributing to cultural diversity, in the United Kingdom, in
Europe, in the world. The world, I think, is looking not just
for mainstream American product; it is looking for new things,
for interesting things. We are part of that process of bringing
a different cultural perspective, part of which is about the language,
part of which is about the general culture that we are in.
159. A lot of what you do with the animation
and things obviously lends itself to exactly what you are talking
about. If I think about a film like Hedd Wyncritically
acclaimed and an excellent filmhave you any idea how many
people actually across the world got to see that?
(Mr Jones) Hedd Wyn I do not have a number for, but
we could have a crack at it. The Miracle Maker, we believe, has
been seen by some 300 million peoplethat is television
and film. A lot of it is the American television influence. Is
that figure right, Wyn?
(Mr Innes) Certainly in terms of ABC first showing,
it was 15 million that watched the first showing. You could suggest
that the same number of people roughly are going to watch it again.
It sold around the world. I think, in terms of potential viewers,
probably 300 million is about right, because, clearly, if you
are selling to the ABC network your potential viewers might be
100 million although only 15 million choose to watch it that particular
evening. Certainly, in terms of selling to the major networks,
then, clearly, a sale into a satellite minority broadcaster with
a possible reach of a few million people is going to give you
less exposure than to a national broadcaster like ABC, like NHK
in Japan, like ZDF in Germany, and also like La Cinquieme in France
(where we have a co-production development agreement with that
particular channel). So the potential audience is rather easier
at times to measure than actual audience because of different
audience measurement techniques around the world, etc. But I think
it is fair to say that we do have a network, a strong network,
of links to public service and mainstream broadcasters around
the world and, therefore, when a sale is made to those countries,
the potential viewers are in several millions of people. I think
that that is important. We have, as was mentioned earlier, very
strong links in Scandinavia, whose traditions and the sorts of
programmes that they produce for their home market are very well
suited and actually quite similar to that which we produce. Virtually
any programme that we co-produce and make has distribution in
Scandinavia, for example. Broadly speaking, our programmes are
seen worldwide and, potentially, as Huw said, by tens/hundreds
of millions of people.