This article is about the Welsh-language public broadcaster. For the UK public broadcaster, see Channel 4
(Welsh pronunciation: [ˌɛs ˌpɛdwar ˈɛk]
, Sianel Pedwar Cymru
, meaning Channel Four Wales
) is a Welsh language free-to-air
television channel. The first television channel to be aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience, S4C is the fourth-oldest terrestrial television channel in Wales after BBC One
and BBC Two
. As of 2019–20, S4C had an average of 101 employees.
It launched on 1 November 1982, with Channel 4
following on the next day (2 November).
When first established, the channel — initially broadcast on analogue television
— was bilingual (Welsh and English) outside 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 terrestrial television
arrived several years later, S4C added a second, full-time Welsh-language channel called S4C Digidol ('digital') on 1 November 1998. 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; what had been S4C Digidol became the default S4C channel, available on Freeview
and pay-television, and broadcasting entirely in Welsh. S4C does not commission programming in English, but when English is used on the channel, it is left untranslated. Moreover, the channel includes an English subtitle-track available for some programmes, which viewers can access using their television set's remote control.
Before the launch of S4C on Monday 1 November 1982, Welsh speakers had been served by occasional programmes in Welsh, broadcast as regional opt-outs on BBC Cymru Wales
and HTV Cymru Wales
franchise in Wales), usually at off-peak or inconvenient times. This was unsatisfactory for Welsh speakers, who saw the arrangement as a sop, and at the same time an annoyance for non-Welsh speakers, who found the English-language programmes seen in the rest of the UK often rescheduled or not transmitted at all.
On 14 September 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 after going bankrupt, the station was taken over by its neighbour Television Wales and the West
During the 1970s, Welsh-language activists had campaigned for a television 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.
On 17 September 1980, the former president of Plaid Cymru
, Gwynfor Evans
, threatened to go on hunger strike if the Conservative
government of Margaret Thatcher
did not honour its commitment to provide a Welsh-language television service.
S4C started broadcasting on 1 November 1982.
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, such as the original Teletubbies
. On the analogue service, S4C showed programmes produced for Channel 4 in the rest of the United Kingdom – either simultaneously
or time-shifted – outside of peak hours. 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 Sbectel
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 1994
and Solomon & Gaenor
was nominated in 2000.
The S4C analogue signal also spilled over on to the east coast of the Republic of Ireland
. In the past it was rebroadcast in a number of areas there on UHF
terrestrial signals by so-called 'deflectors
'. Up until the 1990s, S4C was also carried by some Irish cable
providers before being replaced by Channel 4.
The S4C channels continue to be available in the Republic of Ireland via the Freesat satellite service.
Up until 2009, S4C ran its own teletext
, Welsh for "a peek" or "a glimpse", and a reference to an S4C schedule insert formerly included in the TVTimes
issues for the HTV Wales
Relocation of S4C Headquarters
In September 2013 S4C began a study into the possible relocation of its headquarters. In March 2014 it was announced that Carmarthen was the winner with a bid led by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
. The University owns the land where the Canolfan S4C Yr Egin would be built. The building would also be home to other companies in the creative industries.
There was a strong bid for relocation to Caernarfon but there was disappointment that the bid was unsuccessful.
In 2016 it was revealed that S4C was paying £3 million upfront rent to UWTSD, it will pay rent over the next 20 years. Concern was expressed about the arrangement and the lack of transparency around commercial payments between two publicly funded bodies. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David applied for funding for the building work and received £3m from the Welsh Government and a further £3m from the Swansea Bay city deal.
In June 2018 it was revealed that more staff would be leaving the channel than moving to work in Carmarthen. S4C started relocating to the new building from September 2018 and 54 jobs moved to the new HQ. An office in Cardiff was retained for technical purposes until full change over to the new BBC Wales Headquarters with 70 staff there. A significant percentage of the technical posts will transfer to the BBC.
In September 2018, S4C committed to ten years of lease on its Caernarfon office, which has 12 full-time staff.
In January 2021 S4C's Presentation, Library, Promotion and Commercial departments moved to BBC Wales headquarters in Central Square, Cardiff. The first programs broadcast from there was on the 27 January 2021 with the channel's children's service, Cyw at 6:00am. Liz Scourfield's first live presentation came on 27 January 2021 before the news bulletin at 12:00.
11.5 million people throughout the UK watched S4C on television at some time during 2019–2020. On average, 702,000 people throughout the UK watched the channel on TV every week.
On an average week in 2019-2020, approximately 306,000 viewers in Wales watched the channel on television for at least three consecutive minutes. 142,000 Welsh speakers in Wales watched S4C each week during this period.
There were also 38.2 million viewing sessions of S4C content on Facebook
in 2018–2019, with 8.6 million viewing sessions of S4C content on S4C Arlein and BBC iPlayer
Following the switch-off of analogue terrestrial signals on 31 March 2010, Wales became the first fully digital region in the UK, with both S4C and Channel 4 becoming 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
. 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".
Logo of the former channel S4C2
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 Thursdays. 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 block, launched on 23 June 2008. Under the name Cyw
(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 7 am to 1.30 pm 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.
It was announced on 20 May 2016 that S4C would relaunch a high-definition service S4C HD on Freesat and Sky in Wales and across the UK from 7 June onwards.
In December 2014, S4C became available on the BBC iPlayer
website, both live and on demand, as part of an 18-month trial.
S4C's first logo, used from 1 November 1982 to 1 May 1987
S4C launched on 1 November 1982 (the day before Channel 4
started in England
and Northern Ireland
), its 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 a synthesizer fanfare, with the logo forming as WALES4CYMRU
S4C's second logo, used from 2 May 1987 to 9 February 1995
On 2 May 1987, the ident changed to a computer-generated ident featuring an animation of the streamlined S4C logo and the colours of the logo were blue, green and red. The font used for this logo was Bodoni MT Bold
. On 7 September 1990, the new ident was introduced, depicting a piece of Welsh slate with colours blue, green and red washing over the letters S4C until 31 May 1993.
S4C's third logo, used from 10 February 1995 to 17 January 2007
On 1 June 1993, S4C introduced a new series of idents, which depicted inanimate objects as having characteristics of dragons (such as flight or breathing fire), as a reference to the red dragon on the flag of Wales
. On 10 February 1995, the channel introduced a new logo (in the Futura typeface
) replaces the original serif logo, featuring a tilde
representing a dragon with a flame next to the "C" as if were breathing fire. The idents were designed, created and directed by Charlotte Castle, Brian Eley and Martin Lambie-Nairn
Inanimate objects in the idents were a kite, a man dressed as a dragon with a staff, flags to become the Welsh dragon, an oxy-acetylene gas pump dragon (a mirrored version was also made), a pair of scissors (the tongs variant was also made), the clockwork dragon (schools programming until June 1999), a sousaphone, a standpipe, an extinguisher (the close up version was also made), a clothes iron, a pencil (the fire version was also made), an electric fan, a pedal bin, a curly light on the pole, a spray can, the countdown screen (sports programming), the tiled carousel (schools programming, the colour version was made until the summer term of 2000, and in the autumn term of 2000 onwards, the monochrome version was made), a vacuum cleaner, a mouse (the special preview screen was also made), a stapler with a red ribbon, a garlic crusher, a magic top hat, a lawnmower, a shower, two Sunday night drama idents, an egg cup (the short version was also made), a loudspeaker and the Chwaraeon/Sports ident.
Many variants were made over the course during its 13-year existence (such as the shots, angles and music) until the dragon idents were withdrawn on 31 December 2006:
- Dragon Standard: on different angles, fire is spreading around some sticks; the screen then proceeds to show the whole object, which is a floating red standard in the shape of a dragon. This ident was used for the S4C Video Classics ident from 1993 to 1997.
- Oxy-acetylene: the upper part of an oxy-acetylene rotates and then blows fire. The screen then shows the entire object. A mirrored version was also produced.
- Dragon Man: a man dressed as a dragon in a mountainous region blows fire.
- Scissors: a pair of red scissors open up and blow an orange piece of tissue paper to represent fire. A short version had a closer view of the scissor's blades, which has smoke coming from it.
- Kite: a kite made to look like a dragon floats around in the sky.
- Sousaphone: a camera pans around a brass sousaphone, which blows fire. A short version had the entire view of a sousaphone blowing fire, over a table.
- Standpipe: a standpipe is turned on and emits fire.
- Extinguisher: a sentient fire extinguisher sees a flame and proceeds to put it out. A short version had a closer view of the extinguisher's pressure gauge, which is constantly moving.
- Iron: a red clothes iron moves forwards and then backwards on the red cloth over a table, which produces steam.
- Pencil: a red pencil draws (forming fire) around the floor. Then, the screen shows a close view of the pencil. A short version had a fire version.
- Curly Light: a red flashlight, attached with a long red pipe wire on the pole turns on and moves around the screen.
- Pedal Bin: a pile of rubbish falls into a red pedal bin, which eventually blows fire.
- Fan: a fan is located near an open window on a room, working. Eventually, it blows fire rather than wind. A short version was also produced.
- Spray Can: a spray can sprays red graffiti around the rusty brown background.
- Vacuum Cleaner: a vacuum cleaner is seen performing on the stage.
- Screen: a big countdown sport screen shows fire in the end. This ident was used for sports programming until October 2004.
- Stapler: a red stapler gets the red ribbon and sways it at the end.
- Mouse: a computer mouse moves around and pulls the connector out at the end. A special preview screen was also produced.
- Garlic Crusher: a chili pepper falls onto the garlic crusher, which blows fire.
- Lawnmower: a lawnmower is seen cutting the grass, setting sparks out and running around in the end with black smoke.
- Shower: a bathroom door opens and a bathroom curtain reveals a red shower head, which blows fire.
- Magic Hat: a magic top hat blows fire and pours little red hearts out.
- Egg Cup: three eggs are seen in the row, one of them in between cracks and blows fire. A short version with two eggs removed was also produced.
- Loudspeaker: a loudspeaker is seen dancing and blowing fire in the end.
- The entertainment/flags ident was used for S4C Clasuron Fideo from 1993-97.
- Special idents were the Christmas idents, Saint David's Day idents, a kangaroo dragon flag ident for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Mawr (also the ITV ident in 2004), Cofio 60, Eisteddfod idents and the Big Brother 7 final.
- The new sports ident named Chwaraeon S4C Sport replaced the countdown screen in October 2004.
- From 1–16 January 2007, temporary idents were used which gave a nod towards what was to come for the new presentation on the station, and it was called 'A new direction'. The 1995 logo was withdrawn on 17 January 2007.
- The clock idents changed in 1993, 1995 (the same clock from 1993, with the new logo), 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2006 (this was the last logo to include the clock ident). There were also Christmas versions for the clock idents.
- In 2012 (during the channel's 30th anniversary), two idents were revived (the Dragon Standard and Stapler variants). These idents, again, were adapted to widescreen and used the same special logo previously mentioned.
- 1993: A toy dragon looks around, inside a greenish snow globe with a tree and some presents. The background is slighty brownish.
- 2002: Several close views of green leaves are shown, from either a holly or a mistletoe. The background is more orange than red.
- 2004: A bunch of blue and light blue pieces are moving and re-ordering to form a tree, with a yellow glow resembling a star. The background is white.
- 2005: A red/white light glow moves to the right side of the screen, on a dark background.
S4C's fourth logo, used from 18 January 2007 to 9 April 2014
On 18 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, developed by the London-based firm Proud Creative, was intended to portray S4C as a more "contemporary" multi-platform broadcaster, and downplayed "traditional" Welsh imagery such as dragons. Its idents were filmed around various parts of the country, and themed around magnetism—representing the "uncontrollable attraction" of Welsh people and their "emotional affinity to the homeland, whether near or far".
The magnetism-themed idents were later accompanied by a new set developed in collaboration with the agency Minivegas, consisting of live-action scenes with dynamic, animated elements that can react to the voice of the continuity announcer.
A new S4C logo and brand developed by Sugar Creative Studio was introduced on 10 April 2014; the new design was developed around a concept of providing "context" to S4C's target audience and programming. The design revolves heavily around a trapezium shape used within the channel's new logo, which is prominently used within aspects of the channel's overall marketing and branding.
S4C has faced criticism for poor viewing figures since its launch.
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'. The story was widely reported across the UK and referenced in parliament by the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt
In response, an S4C spokesperson stated that 90% of those programmes were aimed at pre-school children, and that BARB (the organisation that compiles television ratings in the UK) only takes into account viewers aged four years and over. The remaining 10% consisted of repeats and daytime news bulletins which did not attract the minimum 1,000 viewers necessary to register on a UK-wide analysis.
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.
Eight days later, the Shortridge Report on corporate governance was made public.
S4C appointed its first female CEO, Iona Jones
, in 2005.
Funding and regulation
From its inception, S4C was in part publicly financed: funding came both 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
) was produced by BBC Wales
as part of the BBC
's public service
remit, and provided to S4C free of charge. There is an agreement in place until 2022 for 10 hours a week of programming to be provided to S4C, which is valued at £19.4m annually.
From 2013, responsibility for funding S4C began 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.
In 2016, it was agreed that the BBC would provide £74.5m a year funding to S4C from the licence fee until 2022.
The UK Government announced in 2018 that it would continue providing £6.72m until 2020, with the aim of S4C being funded wholly from the licence fee from 2022.
This would see S4C's funding being decided as part of the licence fee settlement, for 10-year periods.
In addition to public funding, S4C generates around 2% of its income through commercial sources, such as advertising
S4C is controlled by the S4C Authority
), an independent body unconnected to Ofcom
, the regulator of other UK television channels such as ITV
and Channel 4
Screenshot of S4C's catch-up service, Clic
S4C maintains its own catch-up service called Clic
. Clic is a free online video on demand
which offers 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: Drama, Entertainment, Factual and Arts, Music, Sport, and two Children's categories, Cyw
(ages 3–6) and Stwnsh
(ages 7–13). A Clic app was released for Apple
devices on 18 August 2011.
In late 2014, S4C's programmes and live-streaming also became available to view on the BBC's catch-up service, BBC iPlayer
Both services offer English and Welsh subtitles to some shows.
There were 8.2 million viewing sessions to S4C content on Clic and BBC iPlayer in 2017–2018.
This was an increase of 600,000 from the 7.6 million viewing sessions on those platforms in 2016–2017.
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