The partnership begins 

1 November 2022

‘Broadcasting in Welsh is not a political statement but a simple extension of human communication’



Sianel Pedwar Cymru, the Welsh Channel 4 or S4C for short, comes on air on November 1, a day ahead of the launch of Channel 4 in the rest of the country.
Over 90 per cent of people in Wales will be able to receive S4C from day one. But what are its chances of success? GERAINT STANLEY JONES, Controller of BBC Wales, assesses them.


Masthead of Ariel

From Ariel, the BBC staff newspaper, for 27 October 1982

November 1 is an historic day for broadcasting in Wales — the culmination of a public debate about the place of the Welsh language in television which has raged for two decades.

It also marks a unique concordat in British broadcasting, with the BBC, HTV and independent producers working together under the aegis of the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority to give those who speak a minority language a comprehensive service of television programmes on one channel.

I am optimistic that because of the considerable experience of broadcasting in the Welsh language accumulated by both BBC Wales and HTV Wales, and because of the public appeal, loyalty and commitment which our programmes already enjoy, S4C will be a success.



The main aim of broadcasting in Welsh is not to save that language, it is to serve those who speak it naturally in their homes, at work and at play. To the vast majority of the ½ million or so who speak Welsh, broadcasting in Welsh in not a cultural or political statement but a simple extension of human communication, just as the English language is for the rest of the population.


‘The success of S4C is as important to us as to our other partners in this venture’



Owen Edwards

Owen Edwards

S4C, the UK’s first bilingual television channel, was formed as a direct result of the Broadcasting Act of 1981. This determined that Wales should have its own television channel for its Welsh speakers without depriving the population of the majority of Channel 4’s output.

S4C is the third broadcasting authority to be set up in the UK. The Welsh Fourth Channel Authority, like the BBC and the IBA, is responsible directly to the Home Office.

S4C has received £20 million from the IBA to meet costs until the end of March 1983 and will show commercials. The programmes it takes weekly from HTV (7¾ Welsh language hours) and independent producers (4¼ Welsh language hours), will be purchased, but those supplied by the BBC will be paid for by the licence fee. No charge is made for Channel 4 programmes taken by S4C.

Head of S4C is Owen Edwards who was previously BBC Controller Wales for seven years and left to take up this appointment.

With the development of Radio Cymru a few years ago, we discovered that by combining individual programmes into a complete service, the act of communication was so much more effective and in audience terms so much more appealing. By increasing the television programmes already broadcast by BBC Wales and HTV Wales and by placing them together on one channel as a complete service, I am confident that they too will be more effective and more appealing. The undoubted success of Radio Cymru with its regular audience reach of 60 per cent or more of the Welsh-speaking population, augurs well for S4C.

For the past 12 months there has been hectic, not to say frantic activity in BBC Wales as we prepared for the increase in programme output for the new channel. Our present 7½ hours of television programmes in Welsh are about to increase to 10 hours per week and this has meant a significant expansion of staff and resources. But the change is not simply to do with increased hours. From November 1 the BBC will no longer be transmitting any Welsh language television programmes on its own channels.

BBC1 in Wales becomes an all English language service — free of the disruption and irritation of Heddiw, Pobol y Cwm and all the other programmes that the majority of those living in Wales are not able to understand.

As a result of the final separation of programmes in Welsh and in English, I believe that BBC Wales will be able to meet its broadcasting obligations to the whole of the community more effectively than ever before. We will be able to cater for both the majority and the minority — without the present frustrations for either.



The immediate future of broadcasting in Wales is tied up with the success of S4C and this is as important for BBC Wales as for our other partners in this venture. In the long term, however, the challenge for us is to achieve a proper balance between our output in English and Welsh, on radio and television, and to remind ourselves constantly that in spite of our substantial daily commitment for Wales we must also reflect Wales to the outside world as often and as extensively as possible.


A wrestling ring; one man leaps upon another

Na Nog, a series worth getting to grips with, in which Welsh-speaking wrestlers take the ring.


from Ariel for 14 December 1982

4 is a success… in Wales

BBC shows help reach audience target – and BBC Wales put on viewers, too



Geraint Stanley Jones

Geraint Stanley Jones, Controller of BBC Wales

The broadcasting success of the year is the fourth channel — but only in Wales, and mainly because of the BBC.

In its first three weeks on the air, S4C, the new Welsh language TV station, had an average of seven BBC programmes in its Top Ten chart.

S4C is now reaching a higher proportion of its target audience than any other television channel in the country.

Head of programmes in Wales, Gareth Price, said: “The BBC programme that is bringing in very high figures indeed is the Welsh language Coronation Street, Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley).

“It’s the only programme to have regularly topped 200,000 viewers a week. That’s an amazing figure when you’re only talking about a potential audience of 500,000 Welsh speakers.”

S4C’s programmes are mostly supplied by the BBC (ten hours a week), HTV Wales and independent producers (12 hours a week between them).

Said Gareth Price: “S4C is doing well and proving what we said would happen — that there is no change in the viewing figures for programmes that were on BBC Wales.

“Pobol y Cwm is in its eighth year, and has been drawing audiences of up to 200,000 for many of those years.

“All our top programmes are continuing to bring in high audiences. They’ve taken their viewers over to S4C with them.”

Gareth Price also pointed out that a secondary result of the success of S4C has been bigger audiences for the English language programmes on BBC Wales.

“BBC Wales is showing a distinct increase in audiences for its programmes, because the two languages have been separated out.

“The English language viewers outside Wales who in the past have turned away to other channels outside Wales, are now showing a greater interest in programmes on BBC Wales.

“Our Today programme, for instance, has had an increase in its figures right at the time when it has gone into head-to-head competition for the first time with HTV’s evening news programme.”

Gareth Price put the big boost the BBC have given S4C down to the joint effectiveness of both established and new BBC programmes.

He underlined that the audience response to S4C has been the best reply to the criticism voiced before the channel began broadcasting, that too much money was being spent on too small a minority .

“S4C was a political solution to the problem of Welsh language broadcasting, and it seems to be working,” he said.

S4C has just achieved its first major programme sale. Its animated cartoon series Superted has been bought by the BBC, for showing next autumn. Along with money earned from subsidiary marketing rights the deal will be worth several hundred thousand pounds.


Courtesy of Telly Viewer


You Say

1 response to this article

Nigel Stapley 1 November 2022 at 8:07 pm

A slight goof with Ariel‘s caption for the last photo: ‘Na Nog’ was the name of the production company which made the wrestling programme rather than the title of the programme itself.

I had an off-air audio recording of those opening few minutes (up to the intro of ‘Superted’). We didn’t have a very good signal here above Wrexham because we were partly screened off from Moel Y Parc (the Wrexham transmitter – which had only two channels due to a frequency shortage – wasn’t switched from HTV to S4C for a year or two after S4C came on air), and I remember my excitement that the struggles and sacrifices made by so many – including prison terms – in the previous decade or so had finally borne fruit.

For my tribute to Owen Edwards, see

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