Welsh and Gaelic language speakers across the UK will benefit from easier access to their favourite TV shows under revamped laws being debated in Parliament.
Decades-old broadcasting regulations will be updated to give the UK’s vital public service broadcasters (PSB) a deal fit for the streaming age, with a renewed focus on supporting the provision of culturally relevant programming.
The Media Bill, having its Second Reading today, will introduce simpler and more flexible rules for what TV programmes public service broadcasters (PSBs) are required to show – in a new public service remit. For the first time, regional and minority language content will be included as part of the range of programmes PSBs can offer to meet their obligations, reinforcing its importance in UK broadcasting law.
The remit of S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster, will be modernised to include digital and online services, meaning Welsh content made available on apps and streamed online will now count towards meeting its PSB requirements. Its geographical broadcasting restrictions will also be removed, allowing more people to enjoy Welsh language content on new platforms no matter where they are in the UK or around the world.
These measures will help S4C broaden its reach and adapt to changing viewing habits, supporting the Welsh economy, culture and society, and contribute towards the Welsh government’s ambition to see one million Welsh speakers by 2050, which the UK Government is committed to supporting.
Welsh and Gaelic language TV shows will also be among those promoted through new prominence rules for PSB content online, requiring popular apps and programmes from the likes of the BBC and S4C to be made available and easy for viewers to find on popular smart TVs, streaming sticks and set-top boxes.
UK Media Minister Sir John Whittingdale said:
“Broadcasters like the BBC and S4C help keep our precious indigenous languages alive, providing speakers with superb programmes in a tongue that is familiar to them. We want to ensure this content is widely available and easy to find, no matter where you tune in.
“Our Media Bill will boost protections for the UK’s cultural heritage by offering audiences greater choice in how they can watch their favourite Welsh and Gaelic language shows, and enshrine the importance of these languages in broadcasting law for the first time.”
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said:
“I’m delighted to see provisions in the UK Government’s Media Bill which will benefit the production of Welsh language content and help S4C secure new audiences for the future. S4C play an absolutely vital role in promoting the Welsh language, which is such a fundamental part of our heritage and culture in Wales.
“And it’s great for audiences to be able to access Welsh content, wherever they live in the world.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, John Lamont, said:
“The Gaelic language remains an enormously important part of Scottish cultural life which should be nurtured and cherished. Gaelic language TV provides an important service to Gaelic speakers throughout Scotland and the UK Government's Media Bill will ensure people have better access to their favourite shows in this streaming age.”
The rules requiring the BBC to provide S4C with ten hours of TV programming per week will be revised to reflect the changing way in which people access content. The BBC and S4C will work together to agree on new terms that are mutually and commercially beneficial for both parties, ensuring S4C continues to serve Welsh speaking audiences.
These changes will address several recommendations made in the S4C’s independent review, Building an S4C for the Future, published in 2018, also including putting Welsh broadcasters' new board and audit arrangements, already implemented on an administrative basis, in legislation.