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27/10/2011

Patten Outlines Future Funds For S4C

The BBC Trust has revealed details of a new funding package being proposed for Welsh language station, S4C.
The Trust published a letter from its Chairman Lord Patten to S4C Chairman Huw Jones.
The letter sets out the proposed allocation the BBC Trust will make from the licence fee towards S4C for the last two years of the current BBC licence fee settlement.
It said that, for 2015/16 this will be £75.25m, and in 2016/17 £74.5m.
The amounts for 2013/14 and 2014/15 have previously been set at £76.3m and £76m respectively.
This allocation is subject to agreement between the BBC Trust, S4C and the UK Government on arrangements for the future governance and accountability of S4C.
The Trust also claimed that the Welsh language broadcaster should be able to protect the programme budget.
A key BBC requirement is that an 'operating agreement' is established between the two broadcasters and that the Trust can contribute to the appointment of the S4C Authority.
But, as underlined by the letter, this already means that funding would fall from £76.3m in 2013-14 to £76m in 2014-15 - effectively a cut in the budget.
In fact, combined UK Government and BBC funding for S4C is due to fall from £90m in 2011-12 to £83m in 2014-15, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport only contributing £7m.
Lord Patten letter to Huw Jones said: "We might both acknowledge that despite good will between our respective organisations, there are those within the Welsh speaking community who have found it difficult to support these proposals fully... It has become clear to me that there remains one significant stumbling block to wider public support, which is certainty on the long term funding arrangements for S4C beyond 2014-15...
"It is the Trust's position that the contribution from the licence fee should remain broadly stable, requiring S4C to achieve only the same level of efficiency that the Trust is setting for BBC Wales in those years.
"In effect, this will mean - subject to coming to agreement on appropriate governance and accountability structures - the BBC would provide £75.25m to S4C in 2015-16 and £74.5 in 2016-17."
Stressing the need for clear agreement between the broadcasters before funding went ahead, he said: "We also support a management structure for S4C that balances the principles of partnership with independence for the S4C service. We do not believe that these terms are inconsistent with securing the full editorial freedom of the S4C service.
"Satisfactory agreement on these key points is essential to the BBC continuing our willingness to enter into this arrangement," the letter continued.
While a UK Government spokesman said he welcomed the "certainty and security that this settlement offers to Welsh language broadcasting" an S4C spokesman simply commented that the S4C Authority was due to meet on the letter's contents and that "a statement would be made in due course".
(BMcC)
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