Welsh celebs urge Theresa May to devolve broadcasting to Wales

Actor Rhys Ifans is among over forty celebrities and academics to sign an open letter to the UK Prime Minister calling for powers over broadcasting to be devolved to Wales. 

The news comes ahead of the expected publication of an independent review into S4C later this month. It is due to consider, among other issues, whether the responsibility for S4C from Westminster should be devolved to the Assembly. A petition with over a thousand names calling for powers to be moved from London to Cardiff was presented during the Review 

In 2013, the Silk Commission - a cross party review commissioned by the UK Government - concluded that control over the UK Minister's financial contribution to S4C should be transferred to the Welsh Government. 

At present, over fifty people are refusing to pay for their TV license as part of a campaign to devolve broadcasting. 

The prominent figures who have signed the letter include Professor Richard Wyn Jones, actress Sharon Morgan, Eisteddfod Bards Christine James, Osian Rhys Jones and T James Jones, former chief legal advisor to the Welsh Government Professor Thomas Watkins, singer Gwenno Saunders and former Chair of Ofcom Wales Ian Clarke. Their letter states:  

"We believe that we need many more opportunities for us in Wales as a nation, as a people, to speak to each other, to have discussions and to debate: discussions which are inclusive of the whole diversity of Welsh experience and placed in the context of our history as a nation. 

"At present, those opportunities are very limited because powers over broadcasting are retained by Westminster 

"There is a lack of media scrutiny of every level of government in Wales: the current system is failing and is far too dependent on one broadcaster. The present situation is not healthy for our local or Welsh democracy, nor for the flourishing of the Welsh language. "  

The letter continues: 

"We are concerned by the significant fall in the number of broadcasting hours from ITV Wales over the last twenty years, as well as the 36% cut to the budget of S4C since 2010 and the present uncertainty about its financial situation. Furthermore, we are concerned by the drop in local and Welsh language provision by commercial radio and the very fragile provision of local and Welsh language content by local television stations. 

"In 2013, the Silk Commissiona review commissioned by the UK Governmentrecognised the increasing desire to see broadcasting powers devolved to the Senedd. The Commission recommended a transfer of responsibility for the funding that goes directly to S4C from the UK Government to the Welsh Government. However, the Government has not even taken this small step forward.    

"There is strong support among the public for this change, with a recent opinion poll showing that 65% of people in Wales support the devolution of broadcasting to the Senedd. We call on you now to do the right thing for Wales and devolve powers over broadcasting to the National Assembly for Wales."