By Bethan Jenkins
Bethan Jenkins is a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales West. Ms Jenkins believes S4/C must invest in online and new media if it wants to survive.
It has been a painful few weeks for those of us fighting to keep S4/C as a flagship for the Welsh language. The latest chapter came yesterday (October 20) with the announcement of a 25 per cent cut to the channel’s funding in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
It is no longer helpful to get into a debate about who is to blame for the variety of events that led, ultimately, to responsibility for the language’s funding coming under the control of the BBC.
As I write, S4/C’s board has announced that it will seek a judicial review of the Westminster Government’s and, as such, the finer points of this legal process are probably best left until it is heard in a court.
In the meantime, I believe that S4/C should devote some serious attention to reviewing its services with a view to adapting to the changing times in which we live. Making changes because of the continuing growth of online should happen with every broadcaster, but particularly so of S4/C because of the opportunities it affords.
It is clear that the channel faces issues of engagement. What has amazed me is that, up until this point, no one has seen fit to re-examine the bids of Independently-Funded News Consortia that were consigned to the scrap heap by the new Government, and yet which were designed specifically with the aim of re-engaging audiences.
The bids took account of the rise of online media and how it could be put to good use. This could become more important if S4/C is unsuccessful in any bid to recover the funding and control it now appears to have lost, as online media can be implemented at lower costs.
The channel has much experience to offer in mentoring and assisting such enterprises to grow, and as such could place itself once again right at the centre of the Welsh language – becoming, in effect, a hub.
I also believe that the innovation and quality that could arise out of a move into supporting and nurturing such a Welsh language media cottage industry could also act as a spur to the consolidation and growth of the language.
By its very nature, online is inclusive, encouraging a belief of ownership among its users. This should encourage Welsh speakers and learners alike to become more involved.
In addition, it could also pave the way for providing services to the curriculum. S4/C is more than merely a broadcaster, and few would think it strange if the channel were to involve itself in education. It could also assist in building loyalty.
There’s an old phrase in business: “Get ‘em young, get ‘em for life.” How many among us remember Superted, Sali Mali and Wil Cwac Cwac? They bring back happy memories. We all like to think that children are not as innocent as they used to be. That may or may not be true, but we can all agree that they are very good with computers.
These bids are now gathering dust on a shelf in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It won’t cost anything and it can’t hurt to revisit those ideas – particularly if it is to retain some control over its fate.