The uncertainty over S4C's budget shows that powers over broadcasting should be devolved to Wales, that will be language campaigners' message at a cross-party meeting of MPs in Westminster today (Tuesday, 7th February).
S4C has had its budget cut by 40% since 2010. The Conservatives 2015 general election manifesto committed the party to "safeguard the funding and editorial independence of S4C". However, in a debate in Westminster last month the Minister for Culture, Matt Hancock MP, suggested the UK Government could further reduce their support to the channel by £700,000 – a 10% reduction – from April this year.
Within weeks, the UK Government is expected to announce the details of a review of S4C, and Wales Office Minister Guto Bebb has said told Cymdeithas yr Iaith that devolution will 'inevitably' be part of the discussions.
In a speech to a cross-party group of MPs, Heledd Gwyndaf, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith is expected to point to a severe democratic deficit, with the vast majority of MPs from Wales opposing the way S4C and the media in Wales are treated:
"It's undemocratic the way S4C and the media in Wales are being treated at the moment. From the lack of Welsh language output on commercial radio and local TV and the damaging cuts to S4C to the under representation of Wales in the media, it's clear that London is not managing the media in the best interests of the people of Wales.
"What reasonable politician could justify further cuts to S4C? Even the vast majority of Conservatives in Wales see that they couldn't break a clear manifesto pledge to protect the channel's budget. It's clear from our discussions with MPs over recent months, including the Wales Office, that the majority oppose any effort to cut further. And yet we have Ministers in the Culture Department in London controlling our media who don't give two hoots about Wales, not to mention the Welsh language. They are the ones planning further cuts. Decisions over the media in Wales should be made by the people of Wales - it's time to devolve broadcasting."
Speaking about the proposals in the society's discussion paper to devolve broadcasting and establish three Welsh language radio stations and three TV stations, Carl Morris, digital spokesperson for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg commented:
"A review of S4C is due this year and it's fair to say it represents a rare chance to take a close look at broadcasting in Wales. We argue that the current S4C Authority should be transformed and expanded into a 'Broadcasting Authority for Wales' which would replace Ofcom. The remit, duties and powers of the new body would include promoting and normalising the Welsh language on every media platform - including Netflix and Amazon Prime - with powers to set quotas for Welsh language output on commercial radio and local television. It would also have a duty to promote community media. And a new and expanded S4C would produce its own news or commission independent Welsh companies to provide it for them."
"Broadcasting powers are devolved in other small nations, where they have used them for the benefit of minoritised languages. We have an opportunity, through the S4C review, to begin to take steps toward a new shape of the media in Wales by devolving the system."