BBC Wales director welcomes S4C funding decision

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The change that will see S4C part funded by the BBC instead of the UK Government has been welcomed by Menna Richards, director of BBC Wales.

A letter from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said it could not continue to fund S4C in the way it had been doing.

Ms Richards said the BBC was asked whether it would step in to help.

S4C chiefs fear the channel will lose its identity and independence.

The Welsh-language television channel is pursuing a legal challenge of the funding decision, confirmed as part of the spending review on Wednesday.

Chancellor George Osborne also confirmed S4C's budget would be cut by 25% by 2015.

The letter from Mr Hunt to the BBC Trust said the view of the UK government was that a new partnership model with the BBC was the best way to secure S4C's long-term future.

The BBC will take over part funding S4C from 2013.

Mr Hunt added that the government remained committed to a "strong and independent" Welsh-language TV service.

Ms Richards said: "I am glad the BBC made the decision that it would support Welsh-language television in future."

The BBC Wales director said the fact that future funding of the channel was now assured would also benefit the independent companies which make programmes for S4C.

"The bulk of the content commissioning budget will go to the independent sector so that part of the industry is protected," Ms Richards added.

S4C Authority Chair John Walter Jones said the channel was pursuing a judicial review because of the basis of the decision by the government and the way it was taken.

He said it was not "griping about money".

Mr Jones claimed that S4C had been a bargaining tool, "more like a piece of meat being auctioned" and that it was "not the way to treat a public service broadcaster".

S4C chief executive Arwel Ellis Owen said the decision to transfer responsibility for its funding to the BBC was the "wrong model" for the channel.

He added: "Some people feel in three years' time S4C will be called BBC Cymru."

Mark Williams, Lib Dem MP for Ceredigion, expressed his concern about the plans.

He said: "S4C is absolutely crucial to the development of the Welsh language, and it cannot be allowed to have its independence or funding compromised by an unsuitable funding model."

The proposals have also been described as "incredibly stupid" by a broadcasting union Bectu official.

South Wales Branch steward Madoc Roberts said that the plan, together with moves to cut S4C's budget by 25%, represented "the worst possible outcome for S4C".