(IX) THE REMIT AND REGULATION OF S4C |
356. Since its creation, S4C has established a distinctive
and valuable role as a primarily Welsh language broadcaster. Part
2 of Schedule 8 to the draft Bill sets out arrangements for the
regulation of S4C by OFCOM in respect of tiers one and two and
the continuation of S4C's self-regulatory position on matters
such as impartiality and the fulfilment of its public service
remit under tier three.
S4C welcomed this policy, viewing it as right that the regulation
of S4C's public service remit "should remain the responsibility
of the S4C Authority because that ensures that the cultural and
creative challenge that S4C faces will continue to be the clear
responsibility of a broadly-based organisation fully conversant
with the audience's expectations".
Although ITV considered S4C's regulatory position anomalous, we
have heard no good reason why unique regulatory arrangements should
not apply to a public service broadcaster with unique responsibilities
to deliver a substantial proportion of its service in a language
other than English.
357. Clause 145 and paragraph 3 of Schedule 8 set
out S4C's public service remit. In the view of S4C, this reflected
the existing terms of section 57 of the Broadcasting Act 1990,
which it felt had "stood the test of time". Paragraph
4 of Schedule 8 creates provisions for statements of programme
policy akin to those for commercial public service broadcasters,
but without the capacity for OFCOM to undertake detailed regulation.
Instead, it is proposed that the Secretary of State will undertake
a review of the fulfilment of S4C's remit every five years, as
a result of which she may require remedial action.
S4C argued that these reviews ought to take place every ten years
by analogy with the BBC's Royal Charter.
We are not convinced that the situations are analogous: the ten-year
length of the Royal Charter is not set in stone; in future, a
different timetable or different arrangements for external review
of the BBC may be established. We have only one recommendation
to make on this subject, with the aim of broadly aligning arrangements
for S4C with those we have proposed for other channels. We
recommend that paragraph 3 of Schedule 8 be amended to provide
that an order to amend S4C's public service remit may only be
made as a result of a review conducted under Clause 226.
358. The draft Bill does not propose to change S4C's
funding arrangements, under which S4C's grant from the Government
is uprated in line with inflation, plus any additional amount
considered appropriate by the Secretary of State to reflect transmission
costs. S4C argued
that the development of digital services had a particular importance
in Wales, since that development provided an opportunity for the
showing of both a full Channel 4 service and S4C services across
Wales. S4C suggested that the opportunity of the Communications
Bill ought to be taken to enable the Secretary of State to increase
grants to S4C above inflation for the purpose of supporting the
provision of digital services as a whole, in the same way as the
recent increase in the BBC licence fee had been above inflation.
The Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Group also considered that "the
funding for S4C should be reconsidered in the light of the additional
challenges facing the channel in the digital age".
It appears at odds with the concept of future-proofing for
legislation to contain a barrier to increased funding for S4C,
should the Secretary of State decide that such an increase is
appropriate. We recommend that the final Bill seek to amend section
61(4) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 to enable additional payments
to be made to S4C to support the development of digital services.
683 Policy, para 220.127.116.11. Back
Ev 212, para 2.1. Back
Ev 439, para 22; Q 600. Back
Ev 212, para 4.5. Back
Clauses 225 and 226. Back
Ev 212, para 2.2; QQ 597-599. Back
Broadcasting Act 1990, sections 61 and 61A, as inserted by Broadcasting
Act 1996, sections 80 and 81. Back
Ev 212, paras 3.1-3.2; QQ 604-607. Back
Ev 607, para 4.4. Back