S4C’s Chief Executive argues that the Welsh language channel should be guaranteed a prominent position and offered fair terms across platforms.
In response to Ofcom’s Small Screen, Big Debate consultation on the future of Public Service Media, S4C has called for a revision of the regulatory regime.
Owen Evans, S4C’s Chief Executive, has called for “urgent measures” to reform the regulatory system. The reforms need to “ensure prominence and availability on fair terms for S4C’s online services, alongside other public service media providers”, according to the broadcaster.
S4C believes that English language content dominates on most platforms. It says global providers have the advantage of being able to invest significantly in technology to promote their content based on consumer data.
But S4C wants the right for public service broadcasters in the UK’s indigenous languages to have a high degree of prominence across platforms and devices. It argues there should be a standard requirement to be available on all smart TVs. It also wants programme user data to be owned by the providers rather than the platforms. S4C argues this would improve decision making over commissioning and scheduling programmes. That in turn would help S4C secure long-term commercial advertising and sponsorship deals.
S4C wants prominence and availability principles to automatically apply to new methods of delivery in the future. For example, if Ultra HD channels launched, prominence rules would automatically cover these channels.
This request follows years of different treatment given to HD versions of existing standard definition public service channels. S4C itself forfeited its HD slot on Freeview in 2012 when it closed its original “Clirlun” HD channel. By doing so, slot 104 and the associated bandwidth were awarded to Channel 4 HD in Wales. Consequently, when S4C returned to HD broadcasting in 2016, it no longer had access to a Freeview HD slot. Until now, S4C HD remains available on satellite and cable only.
As previously reported, negotiations with the BBC are underway over a Freeview slot for S4C HD. This agreement may result in S4C HD taking bandwidth used for BBC Three HD elsewhere in the UK. Meanwhile, S4C is available on most connected devices through the BBC iPlayer. It’s own standalone service is, in contrast, not as widely available.
In his comments to Ofcom, Owen Evans said:
“The regulatory framework needs to be modernised to ensure that there are thriving public service media in our indigenous languages that flourish for years to come. It is difficult for [Public Service Media] in a minority language such as S4C to influence the global platforms through commercial discussion and therefore we call for legislative intervention. Without this, there is a real danger that Welsh language content will not be visible online and that Welsh will not be part of the daily lives of future generations. “