Pressure group calls for TV licence boycott over S4C

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Image caption The BBC will fund S4C out of the licence fee from 2013

A Welsh-language pressure group is calling for people to refuse to pay the TV licence fee unless the independence of S4C is guaranteed.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg [The Welsh Language Society] is urging the action from 1 December over plans for the BBC to take over part-funding of S4C.

The group said it feared the move would jeopardise the channel's future.

TV Licensing said anyone without a licence who needs one risked prosecution.

About 70 delegates at the society's annual general meeting in Aberystwyth voted unanimously to take further action which it said would include refusing to pay the licence fee from December unless the government changes its mind.

The society said it will call on its members and the wider Welsh public to refuse to pay their licence fee.

The Welsh-language channel' s budget will be cut by 25% by 2015, as part of the UK government's Spending Review.

The BBC will take over part-funding of S4C from 2013, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reducing its grant by 94% over the next five years.

UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has said the UK government is "committed to Welsh programming and committed to S4C".

He said the channel had received a "very generous funding settlement".

Speaking ahead of the society's AGM on Saturday, Bethan Williams, chair-elect of Cymdeithas, said: "The BBC has been very misleading by claiming that they are saving S4C by taking over the channel.

"The truth is that these plans are a complete last minute stitch-up, between [UK culture secretary] Jeremy Hunt and BBC bosses in London."

She said the UK government and the "BBC in London" were "threatening the future of the only Welsh language channel in the world".

She added: "As the only Welsh channel is gobbled up by the BBC, the fate of the language will be in the hands of a broadcaster in London which has to make severe cuts itself."

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: "Regardless of personal opinion, if you don't have a valid TV licence when you need one, it's against the law and you risk a prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000."

Cymdeithas has a history of non-violent direct action, and more than 1,000 supporters have been in court for taking part in campaigns since it was founded in 1962.

In the 1970s the group began to campaign for a Welsh language radio and television service. In February 1971, a group of students walked from Llanelwy, in Denbighshire, to Bangor, in Gwynedd, and burned their TV licences outside BBC premises.

When the Conservative government announced in 1979 it would not establish a separate Welsh language television channel, some protesters refused to buy licences and others climbed up television masts and invaded television studios.

Cymdeithas is organising a rally in Cardiff on 6 November to protest at the changes to S4C.

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