|Sianel Pedwar Cymru|
|Launched||1 November 1982|
|Owned by||S4C Authority|
|Picture format||576i (SDTV 16:9)|
|Audience share||0.1% (July 2013, BARB)|
(English subtitles available on some programmes)
|Website||s4c.co.uk (Welsh) s4c.co.uk/e_index.shtml (English)|
|Freeview||Channel 4 (Wales only)|
|Freesat||Channel 104 (in Wales)
Channel 120 (rest of UK and Ireland)
|Sky||Channel 104 (in Wales)
Channel 134 (rest of UK and Ireland)
|Astra 2F||12515 H 22000 5/6|
|Virgin Media||Channel 166|
|S4C Online||Watch live (UK and Ireland)|
S4C (Welsh pronunciation: [ɛs ˈpɛdwar ɛk], from the Welsh Sianel Pedwar Cymru, meaning "Channel Four Wales") is a Welsh-language public-service television channel based in Cardiff and broadcast throughout Wales.
The first television channel to be aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience, S4C is (after BBC One, ITV, BBC Two and Sky1) the fifth-oldest British television channel (Channel 4 was launched in the rest of the United Kingdom one day later).
When first established, the channel—initially broadcast on analogue television—was bilingual (Welsh and English) outside of peak hours, with English-language content consisting of the simultaneous or deferred transmission of programmes from Channel 4 (analogue reception of which was unavailable in most of Wales). When digital television arrived several years later, S4C added a second, 100% Welsh-language service, called S4C Digidol ("digital"). With the completion of the digital switchover in Wales on 31 March 2010—which made English-language Channel 4 available across Wales—S4C's bilingual analogue channel closed, and what had been S4C Digidol became the default S4C channel, available on Freeview, satellite and cable, and broadcasting entirely in Welsh. S4C does not commission programming in English, but when English is used on the channel it is left untranslated.
A high-definition service called S4C Clirlun ("clear picture"), simulcasting S4C's main channel, began transmission on 30 April 2010 on Freeview channel 53 in Wales. However, it was announced on 11 July 2012 that, as part of cost-saving measures designed to deal with the impact of cuts to S4C's public funding, the Clirlun channel would close before the end of the year. Channel 4 HD began broadcasting in Wales from 2 December 2012 in its place.
Before the launch of S4C, Welsh speakers had been served by occasional programmes in Welsh, broadcast as regional opt-outs on BBC Wales and HTV Cymru Wales (the ITV franchise in Wales), usually at off-peak or inconvenient times. This was unsatisfactory for Welsh speakers, who saw the arrangement as a sop, and also an annoyance for non-Welsh speakers, who found the English programmes seen in the rest of the UK often rescheduled or not transmitted at all.
In 1962 the ITV network had created a licence area for North and West Wales, which was awarded to Wales (West and North) Limited. This traded as Teledu Cymru and provided significant levels of Welsh-language programming. However, problems with transmission infrastructure and poor market research led to financial difficulties within two years and the station was taken over by its neighbour Television Wales and West.
During the 1970s, Welsh-language activists had campaigned for a TV service in the language, which already had its own radio station, BBC Radio Cymru. Both the Conservative and Labour parties promised a Welsh-language fourth channel, if elected to government in the 1979 general election. Shortly after the Conservatives won a majority in the election, the new home secretary William Whitelaw decided against a Welsh fourth channel, and suggested that, except for an occasional opt-out, the service should be the same as that offered in the rest of the UK. This led to acts of civil disobedience, including refusals to pay the television licence fee, thereby running the risk of prosecution or even a prison sentence, and sit-ins in BBC and HTV studios. Some took more extreme measures, including attacking television transmitters in Welsh-speaking areas.
In 1980, the former president of Plaid Cymru, Gwynfor Evans, threatened to go on hunger strike if the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher didn't honour its commitment to provide a Welsh-language TV service. The channel started broadcasting on 1 November 1982, the night before Channel 4's opening. S4C appointed its first female CEO, Iona Jones in 2005.
S4C's remit is to provide a service which features a wide range of programmes in the Welsh language. Like Channel 4, S4C does not produce programmes of its own; instead, it commissions programmes from BBC Cymru and independent producers (although the quantity purchased from ITV Wales has greatly reduced since the early years of S4C), and it has particularly developed a reputation for commissioning animation, such as SuperTed, Sam Tân (which became Fireman Sam in its English version on the BBC), Gogs and Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.
BBC Wales fulfils its public service requirement by producing programmes in Welsh, including Newyddion, S4C's news bulletin, and a soap opera, Pobol y Cwm, and providing them to S4C free of charge. It has also provided (or licensed) Welsh-language versions of English-language programmes, e.g., The Tweenies. On the analogue service, S4C showed programmes produced for Channel 4 in the rest of the UK outside of peak hours (usually a few days later). These programmes were provided to S4C by Channel 4, free of charge.
To make content more accessible to English speakers, all Welsh-language programming carries English subtitles. Originally these were on Teletext page 888, with Welsh subtitles on page 889, with both subtitle languages now also available on digital television platforms. For speakers of English who are learning Welsh, certain programmes, particularly children's programmes Planed Plant Bach and Planed Plant, carry subtitles featuring Welsh subtitles with additional English translations in brackets next to more difficult Welsh-language words. TV films produced for S4C have received some good foreign reviews; Hedd Wyn was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1993 and Solomon & Gaenor was nominated in 1999.
The S4C analogue signal also spilled over into south-east Ireland. In the past it was rebroadcast in a number of areas there on UHF terrestrial signals by so-called 'deflectors', however Channel 4 is now re-transmitted from satellite by the few remaining deflectors. Up until the 1990s, S4C was also carried by some Irish cable and MMDS providers before being replaced by Channel 4.
Up until 2009, S4C ran its own teletext service, Sbectel ("Sbec", Welsh for "a peek" or "a glimpse", and a reference to an S4C schedule insert formerly included in the TV Times issues for the HTV Wales region).
Following the switch-off of analogue terrestrial signals on 31 March 2010, Wales became the first fully digital nation in the UK, with both S4C and Channel 4 now available to all homes. As a result, S4C now broadcasts solely in the Welsh language and, as well as on Freeview in Wales, is available throughout Britain, Ireland and the rest of western Europe on Freesat and Sky. A review commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2004 suggested that "S4C should operate a single core service after digital switchover".
In addition, S4C also operated a sister channel, S4C2 until 2010. It formerly broadcast coverage of the National Assembly for Wales when in session. The programme content was provided by the BBC who, from January 2010, now make it available online and via BBC Parliament. Like the main channel, S4C2 was available within Wales on Freeview and throughout the UK and Ireland on Freesat and Sky. S4C2 had two audio feeds, allowing viewers to select between an untranslated version and an English-only version where all Welsh spoken is translated into English. Delayed coverage of Assembly proceedings is now broadcast overnight on S4C's main channel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday. In addition to the analogue TV signal transmitted throughout Wales, S4C, along with United News & Media, owned the company S4C Digital Networks (SDN). SDN was awarded the UK-wide contract to provide half a digital multiplex worth of programming. The other half continues to belong to the broadcaster Channel 5.
On 27 April 2005 S4C sold its share of SDN to ITV plc for approximately £34 million, though it still has the half-multiplex as of right in Wales. ITV already owned some of SDN due to the consolidation of the ITV industry: Granada bought UNM's stake in SDN, and this was then incorporated into the united ITV plc. In January 2007, S4C announced plans to launch a Welsh-language children's service. The new service, in the form of a programming bloc, launched on 23 June 2008. Under the name "Cyw" (English: Chick), it brings together a wide range of programmes for nursery-age children, and S4C plans eventually to extend the service to include the "Stwnsh" strand for older children and a third service for teenagers and young people. The service currently airs on weekdays from 7am to 1.30pm on S4C.
S4C launched a High-Definition simulcast of S4C called 'Clirlun' on 19 July 2010 to coincide with terrestrial digital switchover in Wales. Clirlun was broadcast on Freeview channel 53 only, and not via other platforms. However, following funding cuts and a review of core services it was announced on 11 July 2012 that Clirlun would close before the end of the year. Clirlun closed at midnight on the evening of 1 December 2012, with Channel 4 HD taking over its transmission capacity with effect from the next day, 2 December 2012.
S4C's on-air appearance has always been a representation of the Welsh society and people, but this representation has changed several times. Initial idents featured clips from the natural landscapes of Wales with a basic logo animation and fanfare, with the logo forming as WALES4CYMRU.
In 1988, the ident changed to a computer-generated ident featuring an animation of the streamlined S4C logo, the colours of the logo were blue, green and red and the font was Bodoni. The early 1990s saw a more "traditional" ident from S4C, depicting a piece of Welsh slate with colour blue green and red washing over the letters S4C.
In September 1993, S4C introduced a new series of idents, which depicted inanimate objects (such as a dragon shaped kite, an oxy-acetylene, scissors, etc.) as having characteristics of dragons (such as flight or breathing fire), as a reference to the red dragon on the flag of Wales. S4C's logo was also refreshed in 1995, now using a red Futura typeface, and a tilde representing a dragon. The dragon idents were withdrawn in the end of 2006. The S4C~ logo was withdrawn in 16 January 2007 and the theme of dragons depicted in everyday objects was replaced by ‘a new direction’ in the presentational theme of idents on S4C.
In January 2007, S4C announced that their digital channels would be refreshed with a new corporate logo and brand.
The new branding was implemented online on 17 January, with S4C's television channels adopting it the next day. The new branding is themed around connections—the "C" in the logo is separated from "S4" with a forward stroke to emphasize Wales as a distinct region, and idents produced by London-based design firm Proud Creative featured a theme of magnetism, with a large amount of a single object gathering in one place (such as shopping carts at a grocery store, balloons in a roof, buoys in a dock, the Penarth Pier at Vale of Glamorgan, and golf carts at a golf course.) Additionally, S4C2 began to be branded as "S4C Dau" (two) in its new logo. In 2007, another new set of live-action idents were introduced, featuring live-rendered dynamic elements which react to the voice of the continuity announcers, an effect similar to the original design of BBC Four, but utilising live-action footage instead of 3D-rendered footage.
Leaked internal reports in March 2010 showed that "over the 20-day period from February 15 to last Saturday, March 6, as many as 196 of the 890 programmes put out by S4C were rated as having zero viewers". An S4C spokesperson responded that 90% of these programmes were aimed at children, whose viewing isn't fully measured by BARB, the organisation that compiles television ratings in the UK, as they only take into account viewers aged four years and over. The remaining 10% consisted of repeats and daytime news bulletins.
On 28 July 2010, S4C's chief executive Iona Jones left her post without explanation. Assembly members and Members of Parliament requested an independent investigation into the circumstances leading up to her departure. The S4C Authority refused to comment further and commissioned a review into how the broadcaster was governed in August 2010. On 3 February 2011, it was announced that issues between Iona Jones and S4C had been settled. On 11 February 2011, the Shortridge Report on corporate governance was made public.
Funding and regulation
S4C is financed from its advertising revenue and a fixed annual grant from the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), receiving £90m of funding in 2011. Additionally, some Welsh-language programming (including Newyddion and Pobol y Cwm) is produced by BBC Wales as part of the BBC's public service remit, and provided to S4C free of charge.
From 2013, responsibility for funding S4C will begin to transfer to the BBC, with the DCMS reducing its funding by 94% by 2015. The BBC will provide around £76m of funding to S4C by this date, resulting in a cut of around 25% to S4C's annual budget. This decision has been challenged by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society), which wants the proposed transfer of responsibility for funding S4C from DCMS to the BBC to be stopped.
Clic is a free online video on demand service provided by S4C. Clic offers a live-streaming, signed programming, a 35-day catch-up service and archive programming. Clic is available across the UK but also contains a limited selection of worldwide programming. Clic's catch-up service is split into seven categories: Cyw, Drama, Entertainment, Factual and Arts, Music, Sport and Stwnsh. A Clic app was released for Apple's iOS devices on 18 August 2011.
Related Welsh television services
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- Sir Jon Shortridge appointed to undertake S4C corporate governance review, S4C press release, 19 August 2010
- Iona Jones - No Tribunal S4C official press release, 3 February 2011
- Review of the Corporate Governance of S4C on official website, 11 February 2011. (The English version begins at page 54.)
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