Wales

S4C turmoil follows 'resignation' of John Walter Jones

The body which oversees S4C is facing fresh turmoil after it announced its chairman had resigned.

The S4C Authority said John Walter Jones confirmed on Tuesday night that he had stepped down with immediate effect.

But Mr Jones has since said he will continue until he turns 65 next spring.

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), which is responsible for appointing the chairman, says it has not received a resignation letter.

In a statement, the authority said Mr Jones had confirmed to his fellow authority members on Tuesday night that he had tendered his resignation to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt.

The authority has now appointed a vice-chairman, Rheon Tomos, who has appealed to Mr Jones to honour what he called his decision to resign.

However, Mr Jones has told BBC Wales that he had an understanding with Mr Hunt that he would remain as chairman until March next year.

Mr Tomos said: "The situation as has been well broadcast is that John offered his resignation to the authority meeting and promptly said he was leaving the authority and left the meeting.

"We had therefore to advise the Department for Culture, Media and Sport the following morning what had happened and it came as a big surprise to us then that there was all the press coverage yesterday that John said he was continuing as chairman.

"You can imagine we were a bit surprised as well because you don't actually say one minute you're resigning immediately and leave, and then the next minute, start talking to the press about the fact you are staying."

He said the authority had to "react in a positive way" so decided to appoint Mr Tomos himself as interim vice-chair.

"I've got the backing of a very good group of authority members and we're just sitting back now awaiting DCMS to advise us on the position," he said.

He added that it was "business as usual" at S4C.

Several Welsh Conservative MPs announced on Wednesday that they believed it was time for all the authority members to step down - apart from Mr Jones.

Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns, said he fully supported the call.

"It seems to me that the authority members are in it to save their own skin," he said.

Image caption John Walter Jones says he plans to carry on in his role until next spring

He added: "We need to remember in all this, the only person that will appoint the chairman of S4C is the secretary of state for the Department of Culture, Media and Support - that's Jeremy Hunt.

"I think we're in a position where you we have quango appointees on the S4C Authority seeking to protect their own interests and seeking to usurp the role of politicians."

A DCMS spokesperson said on Wednesday: "John Walter Jones notified the secretary of state earlier this month of his intention to stand down at the end of March 2011."

Later it emerged that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected calls from the four party leaders in the Welsh assembly for an immediate independent review of S4C.

In a letter, leaked to the BBC, to the leaders Mr Hunt said the idea of a review had merit but that it should not take place before 2015 when the partnership between the BBC and S4C had bedded in.

'Slanging match'

The turmoil follows months of upheaval at the Welsh language broadcaster.

It does not currently have a permanent chief executive after Iona Jones stepped down in controversial circumstances in the summer.

Last month Mr Hunt revealed that the BBC is to take over part-funding for the Welsh-language channel from 2013.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "What S4C needs at this time is a strong, united authority which has a clear sense of purpose and direction. The debate surrounding the channel cannot continue to degenerate into a slanging match.

"These events prove once again that there is a need for an urgent independent review of the future governance and funding of S4C, and that this should take place now and not after the crucial talks between S4C, DCMS and the BBC."

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