The UK Government has announced plans to expand S4C’s digital and online services and to remove current geographical broadcasting restrictions amid a shake-up on broadcasting rules. On Thursday, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, revealed as part of a white paper, such changes would help the Welsh language broadcaster broaden its reach and offer content on a wide range of platforms.
This comes after the UK Government announced thatS4C had secured an improved funding deal in January, which will include an additional £7.5m each year through the BBC license fee to support its digital offering. According to the UK Government, changes to broadcasting rules “will enable S4C to continue to support the Welsh economy, culture and society, reach more Welsh language speakers including younger audiences, and the UK government’s commitment to support the ambition of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.”
Under their new plans, the UK Government aims to introduce “a new prominence regime” for on-demand television to ensure that public service content, such as BBCiPlayer, ITV Hub and S4C Clic, are available and easy for viewers to find on TV and online platforms.
Furthermore, the broadcasting white paper presented plans to remove the current geographical broadcasting restrictions so that S4C could “[offer] its content on a range of new platforms in the UK and beyond”. It also noted that it would legislate to support S4C and the BBC moving away from its “somewhat rigid, framework”.
As it stands, the BBC is required to provide a set amount of programmes for S4C, which is currently around 10 hours a week. The paper said: “We will also legislate to support S4C and the BBC in moving away from the current, somewhat rigid, framework requiring the BBC to provide S4C with a specific number of hours of television programming, so that they can together agree an alternative arrangement that better suits the evolving broadcasting landscape and the changing way in which people access content.”
Following the publication of the paper, Nadine Dorries took to social media to explain the changes further. She tweeted: “Noswaith dda… Newyddion da i S4C… The Broadcasting white paper published today expands your remit, secures your prominence and recognises your unique and critical role in British culture. Pob lwc!”
The Welsh Conservatives have also welcomed the news. The Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard MS, said the changes “will help broadcasters – including S4C – compete with some of the big streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime”.
In response, a spokesperson for S4C said: “S4C welcome the announcement by the UK Government on the broadcasting white paper, and are very pleased to see the changes to modernise our public service broadcasting system that have been announced.
“We are particularly pleased with the aim to ensure that on-demand services such as S4C Clic will be available on popular platforms, such as Smart TVs.
“By now, we are used to finding S4C in the fourth position on TV sets in Wales, and it is essential that S4C Clic is in a prominent place that will be easy to find on Smart TV and other online devices.”