Chair’s Introduction

Rhodri Williams

On behalf of the S4C Unitary Board, I am delighted to present the S4C Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2023.

During the reporting year, S4C marked 40 years since its launch in November 1982. Much has changed over the past forty years, and the challenges facing S4C are very different in today’s digital world. S4C now exists in an extremely competitive market, with content from all corners of the world fighting for viewers’ attention.

S4C must therefore respond positively to the current environment and take advantage of the opportunities available to us.

We must now seek out the audience and catch their attention, rather than expect viewers to come to us. In preparing to celebrate the channel’s birthday, during March 2022, the Board approved S4C’s new strategic priorities for the period from April 2022. I and my colleagues on the Unitary Board are grateful to S4C staff and to the production sector for their support of these new priorities, and their commitment to S4C’s renewal so that it remains relevant for the next period in its history.

Our new strategic priorities set out a clear direction for S4C’s transformation from a linear channel to a digital publisher. An outline of the rationale for this new direction appears elsewhere within this Annual Report.

In evaluating progress against these strategic priorities after the first year of its implementation, it is good to see that they are already succeeding.

The reach of S4C’s content has increased over the past year – particularly among younger viewers who would not traditionally watch the linear channel. This is to be welcomed, and it is vital that we continue to commission engaging content to keep attracting and retaining this audience.

It is our use of a wider range of platforms that has contributed in part to reaching the younger audience. Viewing of S4C content through Clic and iPlayer streaming platforms is becoming more and more popular, and increasing numbers are encountering our content through our presence on social media.

It’s an exciting time as S4C transforms into a public service publisher in the digital world. This will be an on-going process, with S4C continuing to transform as our audiences’ expectations develop further over the years.

This fact is highlighted as our content is given a second life after coming to the attention of different audiences. A series such as ‘Pen Petrol’ is an example of this – originally only released on our digital platforms, it has, due to its popularity, now been published on a wider range of platforms, including the linear service.

Similarly, international attention given to our dramas following their broadcast on our linear service is leading to an increase in the numbers viewing them on demand on Clic and iPlayer. The drama ‘Dal y Mellt’ is a prime example, with an increase in the numbers viewing on demand following the announcement that the drama would be distributed via Netflix in the UK.

It is therefore essential that we invest in our presence on these – and future – platforms, so that S4C content reaches viewers on the platform of their choice and offers the best experience.

In recent months, S4C has worked to make the Clic app available on a wider range of platforms. In addition, the app was launched with a more modern appearance to coincide with S4C’s birthday. The new design is already available on platforms including iOS, YouView, and Amazon Fire Stick; and it will reach further platforms over the coming months.

The Unitary Board itself has reviewed its governance structures and arrangements to ensure that we are sufficiently agile to support delivery of the strategic aims. We have reviewed the composition and terms of reference of our committees, and the new arrangements have worked well over the past year.

Membership of the Unitary Board has remained fairly consistent during the reporting year. Anita George’s term of office as a non-executive Board member ended in early July 2022, and Suzy Davies was appointed as a new non-executive member in early August 2022. With respect to the executive members, Llinos Griffin-Williams became a member of the Board when she joined S4C as Chief Content Officer at the beginning of the reporting year.

The governance arrangements of our commercial activities were also reviewed to facilitate the delivery of the new commercial strategy agreed during 2022–23 to align with the strategic priorities. The commercial strategy is outlined in this Annual Report, and we will continue to refine the governance of commercial activities while implementing the new strategy.

Delivery of the strategic aims has been greatly facilitated by the financial security that S4C has had since April 2022. Indeed, the certainty of funding through the Licence Fee has allowed us to be more ambitious.

S4C is very grateful in this regard to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as it was, and to the then Secretary of State, for confirming in January 2022 that S4C would receive an additional £7.5m funding through the Licence Fee from April 2022. This additional funding enables us to invest in our strategic priorities, including transforming the Clic app and expanding the availability of the app on different devices.

Over the coming months, we look forward to working further with DCMS officials on the proposed Media Bill. We very much hope that the Bill will ensure the prominence and availability of S4C’s services, in order to facilitate reaching viewers.

The proposed Media Bill will also enable the remaining recommendations made by the late Euryn Ogwen Williams in his Independent Review of S4C – Building an S4C for the future – prepared for the DCMS in March 2018. The outstanding recommendations to be addressed through the Media Bill include:

  • Updating S4C’s public service remit to include digital and online services and removing the current geographical broadcasting restrictions;
  • Amending current approval requirements to give S4C greater freedom to invest and generate commercial revenue; and
  • Replacing the S4C Authority with a new Unitary Board comprising executive and non-executive directors (although we already have approval from the Secretary of State to operate as a shadow Unitary Board on an administrative basis).

Despite the financial security offered through the Licence Fee, the funding that S4C now receives is static for the first two years, before increasing in line with inflation in subsequent years. This has created a challenging situation for us in the face of recent inflation levels. The Board has therefore taken steps to minimise internal costs as much as possible to safeguard budgets for commissioning content. We are also very grateful to our partners in the sector for their willingness to work with us, and with each other, to ensure the best value for money for our audiences.

It’s an exciting time as S4C transforms into a public service publisher in the digital world. This will be an on-going process, with S4C continuing to transform as our audiences’ expectations develop further over the years.

The Board and I are very grateful to S4C staff, our partners in the sector, and everyone else for their support on the journey as S4C looks forward to the next 40 years.