Stick or Twist?

The Future Of Content In Wales

August is traditionally a time of media announcements, OFCOM publish their annually fascinating communications market report, shining a light on the media habits of the populace in the UK and the nations, RAJAR publish their Q2 audience figures and this year the national assembly’s committee for Culture, Welsh language and communications published the findings of their review of S4C — Outside the Box, a review I was privileged to have been part of. The timing of its publication is interesting, the week prior to the national Eisteddfod on Ynys Mon, a traditional launch pad for many a governmental announcement, and with the DDCMS’s independent review of S4C having been delayed for quite some time, I would wager a fair bit that news on its shape, form and schedule will emerge from Bodedern over the coming days.

So, what if anything have we learnt from the announcements thus far? OFCOM and RAJAR both confirmed that the on demand nature of content consumption via digital means continues to grow, particularly amongst the younger millennial generation. Radio Cymru saw their figures increase again quarter on quarter. It’s worth noting the last increase was due, in no small part, to increased listening by a younger audience on digital platforms, we’re likely to see more of the same this time. OFCOM’s report can be summed up easily by the line “box set generation”, more viewing is on demand and on digital platforms. The traditionalists will still trot out the “but live television viewing is still the most popular line” but the truth is far more complex. I still watch live TV most days, but it’s mainly news programming, so I still count as part of the huge percentage of live TV viewing, but the vast majority of my viewing is on demand, and more worryingly for traditional broadcasters, my 8 and 4 year old daughters are now viewing 100% on demand, with a huge chunk of this non TV originated content on YouTube. Which sets us up nicely for the assembly committees report on the future of S4C.

S4C in their own document “pushing the boundaries” make the case for a wider remit enabling them to operate as a public service media provider instead of the current public service broadcaster, additional budget is required in order for them to fulfil this new remit, with an annual figure of £6,000,000 being suggested. It’s more a case of carry on as we are, a linear TV service with digital stuff bolted on for the younger generation.

The Welsh government has a stated aim of reaching 1,000,000 Welsh speakers by the year 2050, a massive yet inspiring aspiration, so with this in mind I sincerely hope the DDCMS’s proposed review will enable a national conversation around the future of content creation and distribution in the Welsh language, bringing together all commissioning bodies who operate in the space.

We need to reimagine the type of welsh language content that’s required and desired by a younger, naturally bilingual, audience, and how they’ll be able to access it. If we were setting up a public service media provider from scratch tomorrow, it wouldn’t have a linear TV service at its core. Let’s be bold and create a new model for public service content provision, one that caters for all ages and social backgrounds, one that educates and entertains our students from 3 to 25, one that provides Welsh speakers, however far along the journey to fluency they are, with the content that enriches their daily lives, gives the same value (and budgets) for content created for Facebook. Whilst not forgetting the traditional audience.

This is how we will reach the million.

Let’s create a new culture of content creation across multiple platforms, provide financial support for independent audio and video content production. S4C are very proud of the fact that they are the “only Welsh language channel in the world”, but has the lack of competition actually held it back? Has its focus been too much on emulating its English counterparts, TV mammoths with whom they could never compete? Diversity in the marketplace would be good for everyone especially the most important stakeholders, the audience.

We can develop a new culture of content, unique to wales, one that audiences would naturally gravitate towards.

The legacy of S4C is a rich and diverse archive of content, the basis for an incredible box of delights for the “box set generation”. A brand new Welshflix, a content portal where audiences go to get lost in a sea of cultural discovery could be set up in matter of months. A bespoke platform that utilises the latest advances in language technology to make Welsh language content available to the world whilst commercialising said content.

This is the level of ambition we should be aiming for, a level that puts Welsh language content and Welsh speakers on a global stage.

We await the announcement from the DDCMS, let’s hope it’s not a case of “buisness as usual”, welsh speakers and Wales as a nation deserve so much more.

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