The UK government has announced plans to expand S4C’s digital and online services and remove current geographic restrictions on broadcasting as part of a broadcast rule shake-up. On Thursday, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, revealed as part of a white papersuch changes would help the Welsh-language broadcaster expand its reach and deliver content across a wide range of platforms.
It comes after the UK government announced thatS4C had secured an enhanced funding deal in January, which will include an additional £7.5m each year via BBC licensing fees to support its digital offering. According to the UK government, the changes to the broadcast rules “will enable S4C to continue to support the Welsh economy, culture and society, to reach more Welsh-speakers, including younger audiences, and to UK Government’s commitment to support the ambition of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.”
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As part of their new plans, the UK government aims to introduce “a new prominence regime” for on-demand TV to ensure that public service content, such as BBCiPlayer, ITV Hub and S4C Clic, is available and easy to find for viewers on TV and online platforms.
Additionally, the broadcast white paper outlined plans to remove current geo-restrictions on broadcast so that S4C can “[offer] its content on a range of new platforms in the UK and beyond”. He also noted that he would legislate to support S4C and the BBC moving away from its “somewhat rigid framework”.
As it stands, the BBC is required to provide a set number of programs for S4C, which is currently around 10 hours per week. The newspaper said: “We will also be legislating to help S4C and the BBC move away from the current, somewhat rigid framework, requiring the BBC to provide S4C with a specific number of hours of television programming, so that they can agree together an alternative arrangement that better suits the changing landscape of broadcasting and the changing way people access content.”
Following the article’s publication, Nadine Dorries took to social media to further explain the changes. She tweeted: “Noswaith dda… Newyddion da i S4C… The Broadcasting White Paper published today broadens your remit, secures your profile and recognizes your unique and essential role in British culture. Pob lwc!”
Welsh Tories also welcomed the news. the Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard MS, said the changes “will help broadcasters – including S4C – to compete with some of the big streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime”.
In response, an S4C spokesperson said: “S4C welcomes the UK government’s announcement on the Broadcasting White Paper and is very pleased to see the changes announced to modernize our public service broadcasting system.
“We are particularly pleased with the goal of ensuring that on-demand services such as S4C Clic will be available on popular platforms, such as Smart TVs.
“At the moment, we are used to finding S4C in fourth position on TVs in Wales, and it is essential that S4C Clic has a prominent place that will be easy to find on Smart TVs and other devices in line.