New S4C chief Owen Evans does not expect funding rise

By Huw Thomas
BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

image sourceS4C
image captionJacob Ifan as Sam and Catrin Stewart as Gina in the S4C drama series Bang, set in Port Talbot, which ended last weekend

The new chief executive of S4C does not expect an independent review of the channel to lead to increased funding.

In his first interview since being appointed, Owen Evans said he hoped the review would provide a "stable platform" for the channel.

But it was "unlikely" to lead to more income, he said.

The review, on behalf of the UK government, is considering the channel's funding, remit and governance.

It is being led by former director of programmes for S4C, Euryn Ogwen Williams.

Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith said it would be "astonished" if the review failed to recommend increasing S4C's budget.

S4C is dependent on public funding and receives £74.5m from the TV licence fee as well as £6.8m from the UK government.

In April, S4C called for an additional £6m to ensure its content could reach all new platforms.

But when Mr Evans was asked if he thought the review would lead to more funding, he said: "If I was to be honest, I think it is probably unlikely in any significant terms.

"I know the pressures that governments are under, whichever side of the border.

"However, I would hope the review would look at budgets and at least provide a stable platform that we can plan through for the future."

Mr Evans added he hoped future funding would at least be tied to inflation.

image sourceS4C
image captionEve Myles who stars in new drama series Un Bore Mercher, which starts on Sunday

Language groups and politicians had lobbied the UK government to hold an independent review of S4C, in part to address perceived shortfalls in funding for the channel.

Independent producers' body Tac has also called for an increase in the public funding S4C receives.

In a statement, the chairwoman of the Welsh language society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Heledd Gwyndaf said: "It would be astonishing if the review didn't come to the conclusion that S4C needs increased funding.

"After the big cuts to its budget in recent years, any other conclusion would be very strange indeed."

media captionOwen Evans is interviewed for the first time about his new job

Mr Evans has joined S4C at a time of great change.

The independent review of S4C will be submitted to the UK Government in December, while the channel will relocate its headquarters from Llanishen in Cardiff to a purpose-built media centre at Yr Egin in Carmarthen next year.

Long term decline in audiences, and the expectation programmes are available on all digital platforms, is an issue the channel is seeking to address.

'Creative team'

Mr Evans said the move to Carmarthen was "something we should be proud of".

"It is a challenge - there's no doubt about that - but it's something very positive for Wales's future," he added.

image sourceUniversity of Wales Trinity Saint David
image captionS4C plans to relocate to Carmarthen in 2018

Asked if S4C staff were supportive of the move, Mr Evans said: "I have to be honest, it's a mix. Some people are saying, 'Yes, great, let's go.'

"And others are saying, 'What are we going to do? I've got kids in school,' or 'my parents are unwell'.

"So we have to listen, we have to understand - at the end of the day I want to take as many people as possible from Cardiff to work with me in Carmarthen. So we have to be flexible about how we support them."

A senior civil servant in the Welsh Government before joining S4C, Mr Evans was also previously a senior manager for BT in Wales.

But he said his lack of experience in broadcasting was not a problem, adding he brings commercial and other skills.

"The point, for me, is that I am part of a team," he said.

"I have moved offices in the past, I have created strong teams in the past, but I will be working with a very strong creative team here on the content and how we get to the audiences."

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