The UK’s broadcast cast community has hit out at the UK government following the savage public spending cuts announced by Chancellor George Osborne, in particular Welsh language broadcaster S4C who has launched judicial revue against the plans which it classes as a de facto merger with the BBC.
The headline announcement was that the BBC has had its licence fee frozen for a period of six years, effectively a 16% cut in revenue in real terms.
Yet despite the crunching affect of this bottom line cut, described by some executives as ‘brutal’, the BBC has also been obliged to make huge capital expenditures from the licence fee on broadband development, local TV and online content, the BBC World Service—hitherto the fiscal responsibility of the UK Foreign Office to the tune of around £272 million annually— but, most controversially, Welsh language broadcaster S4C.
A week before the true extent of the cutbacks had been revealed; S4C warned that the proposed cutbacks to its current £102 million of UK-government funding would endanger its ability to meet its fundamental broadcasting requirements. The actual settlement has left the broadcaster outraged.
Wasting no time to react, Chair of S4C John Walter Jones said that the broadcaster will launch a Judicial Review of the Government’s decision which he said would effectively merge S4C with the BBC, giving the corporation effective control over the finances and operations of the Welsh language channel.
He said: “The effect of the financial cuts ….will have a disastrous effect for viewers across Wales, and this at a time when the BBC has already cut spending on both English and Welsh language programming in Wales…I am astounded at the contempt that the London government has shown not just towards S4C, but also towards the Welsh people and indeed the language itself. I was informed of these ill-conceived plans by Mr Hunt, and was told that it was a non-negotiable agreement, only after they were leaked on the BBC last night. This is no way to conduct public affairs and surely is an affront to the good conduct of public policy and the democratic process. “
On a more emollient note, trade body for independent producers Pact welcomed the government’s decision to maintain the current BBC licence fee until 2017, but voiced concern about where funding for the additional services will come from. Chief executive John McVay admitted to be worried that an increased burden on the BBC could impact on the quality of programming that the licence fee payer would get in the future. “The BBC should therefore look at all other areas before it considers cuts in the programming budget as there is a real danger that the licence fee payer will be paying the same but getting less,” he argued.