The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Launched: 1st November 1982
Audience Share (Aug 2004[1] ): 7.4% (with Channel 4)
Owned By: Welsh Fourth Channel Authority
Web Address:
Terrestrial Analogue: Usually channel 4 (Wales only)
Terrestrial Digital (S4C Digidol variant): Freeview channel 4 (Wales only)
Satellite (S4C Digidol variant): Sky Digital channel 104 (Wales) or channel 151 (rest of UK)

Free-to-air satellite channel 184

Cable: NTL channel 752

S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru - 'Channel Four Wales') is a Welsh-language television channel broadcasting in Wales, United Kingdom, which was established in response to demands for a channel to cater for the Welsh-speaking minority population in Wales. It is the equivalent of Channel 4, which broadcasts to the rest of the United Kingdom. The channel started broadcasting on 1 November 1982, the night before Channel 4's opening.

S4C's remit is to provide a service which is in the Welsh language in peak viewing hours. Previously Welsh speakers had been served by occasional programmes in Welsh broadcast as regional opt-outs on BBC Wales and HTV (the ITV station in Wales), often at obscure times. This was not only unsatisfactory for Welsh speakers, who saw them as a sop, but also an annoyance of the non-Welsh-speaking community which found the English programmes seen in the rest of the UK often rescheduled or not transmitted at all.

During the 1970s, Welsh language activists had campaigned for a TV service in the language, which already had its own radio station BBC Radio Cymru. This led to acts of civil disobedience, including refusals to pay the television licence, 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. In 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 TV service.

S4C does not produce programmes of its own, instead it commissions programmes in Welsh from independent producers (although the quantity purchased from HTV has greatly reduced since the early years of S4C), and it has particularly developed a reputation for producing cartoons, e.g. SuperTed , Fireman Sam ('Sam Tân' in Welsh), Shakespeare - The Animated Tales , etc. BBC Wales fulfills its public service requirement by producing programmes in Welsh (including S4C's News and the soap opera Pobol y Cwm) and providing them to S4C free of charge. For that part of the day outside the peak period, S4C shows programmes produced for Channel 4 in the rest of the UK (though often several days later).

TV movies produced for S4C have received some good foreign reviews — Hedd Wyn being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1993 and Solomon and Gaenor being nominated in 1999.

However, S4C is not universally appreciated by all the people of Wales. It has been known for people on the North and South coasts of Wales to point their TV aerials at the nearest English transmitters to avoid S4C, as well as BBC Wales and ITV Wales. However it is true to say that this practice dates back before the start of S4C in 1982, when Welsh-language programming was included on BBC1 and HTV Wales.

The S4C signal also spills over into southeast Ireland, where it is retransmitted on UHF terrestrial signals by so-called 'deflectors', although those who watch it only do so because Channel 4 is not available via cable or MMDS in rural areas.

Digital channels

In addition to the analogue TV signal transmitted throughout Wales, S4C owns the licences to two multiplexes on Digital Terrestrial television throughout the UK via its subsidiary company SDN (S4C Digital Networks). Within Wales on DTT, and throughout the UK on Digital Satellite broadcasts, S4C transmits an exclusively Welsh-language service, S4C Digidol (S4C Digital), and S4C2 which broadcasts sessions of the Welsh National Assembly.

One benefit of DTT in Wales is that Channel 4 can now be broadcast alongside S4C, thereby placating disgruntled English speakers. It remains to be seen what impact the availability of Channel 4 will have on S4C; both channels share a significant proportion of their English output, which Channel 4 broadcasts not only some days before S4C but usually in peak-time slots. This may have a long term impact on the viability of S4C as a mixed language channel.

S4C is financed from its advertising revenue and a fixed annual grant from the UK Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS).

S4C is controlled by the 'Welsh Fourth Channel Authority' , know in Welsh as Awdurod Sianel Pedwar Cymru, an independent body unconnected to the bodies which regulate the other UK television channels such as the BBC, ITV, or Channel 4.

External links

  • S4C Website in Welsh
  • S4C Website in English

Last updated: 05-01-2005 23:37:46