S4C could share channel if Westminster cuts deep

4th Oct 2010 Wales

S4C may invite another broadcaster to fill parts of its schedule if the UK government makes deep cuts in its budget. The Welsh language channel has drawn up its response to two scenarios from the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport – a 24 per cent budget cut and a 40 per cent cut.

Arwel Ellis Owen, S4C’s interim chief executive, told Insider that deep cuts would hit the independent production sector hard and prompt a re-think of the channel’s structure.

He said the channel would have to choose between making cheaper programmes, or making fewer shows: “We might have to look to other broadcasters or services to fill the gap.”

Owen said viewers would resist the idea of more repeats on S4C.

He said the channel’s administrative costs were small, at 3.4 per cent of its £100m a year budget, so cuts would transfer quickly to the £83m which it spends with TV production companies. The effect will be exaggerated because funding has already been committed to some future shows.

But the suppliers that win contracts may get more medium term security. If S4C’s budget is reduced, the cuts are likely to be phased in over four years. Owen said S4C would then consider working on more long-term contracts with production companies.

He said: “If we get a four year deal, it makes sense to give some companies four year deals that will allow them to plan, develop and invest for four years.”

S4C could then work with production companies to help them develop leadership, management and planning abilities. “Those are the skills that entrepreneurs will need to lead these companies.”

Owen added that it seemed “unfair” that S4C as a public service broadcaster was being singled out for sharp cuts to its budget, while the BBC licence fee is likely to stay at the same level.

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