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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The public scandal of the S4C Authority

Sometimes the Assembly's Presiding Officer goes out on a limb and upsets people through expressing unorthodox views. At other times he manages to encapsulate what most of us are thinking. Today is one of the latter occasions.

Dafydd Elis Thomas has told BBC Wales that S4C is "bloated, failed and failing" and has let down viewers by infighting:

In an interview for the Politics Show Wales to be broadcast on Sunday, Lord Elis-Thomas said: "The whole thing is appalling.

"They've let down Welsh viewers in the way they've been infighting - the irresponsible way they've run the institution is a public scandal.

"There's a systematic failure inside the organisation. It's out of touch with its viewers. It's a bloated organisation. It's a failed and failing organisation."

He added: "It's shown a lack of capacity among the Welsh-language cultural elite to be responsible for its own broadcasting media.

"I'm absolutely convinced that if S4C was accountable to this place [the Welsh assembly], this wouldn't have happened."

Lord Elis-Thomas compared the authority's response to its difficulties with that faced by the assembly when the then Auditor General for Wales Jeremy Colman was convicted recently of criminal offences.

He said: "He [Colman] was out in less than a week and a new appointment was made quickly, because that's the way that you have to take responsibility.

"Here, we have a major cultural organisation in Wales [the S4C Authority] without a chief executive for another six months and without a proper chair.

Lord Elis-Thomas also criticised the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He said: "There's a systematic failure on the part of the sponsoring department, it should have got involved much earlier.

"It's totally irresponsible for a government department or indeed a parliamentary body to allow a public body to behave in this way without effective intervention."

I agree with him that the UK Culture Secretary has failed the channel by not demonstrating any leadership on this issue. I also agree that the channel should be accountable to the Welsh Government. How different things might have been if Rhodri Morgan had accepted the offer of the last Government to assume responsibility for S4C.
I would love the National Assembly and the Welsh Government to take responsibility for broadcasting (and not just S4C) but it has to come with the finance too.... I gather that all that was offered was control over the channel without any finance - a poisoned chalice well avoided I think.
not sure we want WAG to be in charge of S4C. It could become another branch of their propaganda machine. No perhaps it should be made "pay per view" then they will respond to their customers and become really accountable.
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