S4C logo
Launched 1 November 1982
Owned by Welsh Fourth Channel Authority
Channel Four Television Corporation
Picture format 576i (SDTV 16:9)
1080i (HDTV)
Audience share 0.1%
(June 2011, BARB)
Country Wales
Language Welsh
Headquarters Llanishen, Cardiff
Website s4c.co.uk (Welsh) s4c.co.uk/e index.shtml (English)
Freeview Channel 4 (Wales only)
Channel 53 (HD) (Wales only)
Freesat Channel 104 (in Wales)
Channel 120 (rest of UK)
Sky Channel 104 (in Wales)
Channel 134 (rest of UK & Ireland)
Astra 2A 12129V 27500 2/3
Virgin Media Channel 167 (Wales only)
Internet television
S4C Online Watch live (UK only)

S4C (Welsh: Sianel Pedwar Cymru, meaning Channel 4 Wales), currently branded as S4/C, is a Welsh television channel broadcast from the capital, Cardiff. The first television channel to be aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience, it is (after BBC One, ITV, BBC Two and Sky1) the fifth oldest British television channel (Channel 4 was launched in the rest of the United Kingdom one day later).

The channel - initially broadcast on analogue television - was bilingual (Welsh and English) with most of its English-language programming being either simultaneous or deferred broadcasts of Channel 4 programmes (analogue reception of which was unavailable in most of Wales). When digital television arrived several years later, a second channel was added: a 100% Welsh-language service, branded S4C Digidol (S4C Digital). The analogue version of S4C closed on 31 March 2010, when the Wenvoe transmitter completed the digital switchover. After this, S4C Digidol became the default S4C channel available across Wales available to Welsh viewers on cable, satellite and Freeview, broadcasting only in the Welsh language.[citation needed]

A high definition service called S4C Clirlun (clear picture), simulcasting S4C Digidol, began broadcasting on 30 April 2010 on Freeview channel 53 in Wales.[1][2] By the end of 2012, S4C has indicated that it plans to produce all of its programming in high definition.[1]



Before the launch of S4C, Welsh speakers had been served by occasional programmes in Welsh broadcast as regional opt-outs on BBC Wales and HTV Cymru Wales (the ITV franchise in Wales), usually at off-peak or inconvenient times. This was unsatisfactory for Welsh speakers, who saw the arrangement as a sop, and also an annoyance for non-Welsh speakers, who found the English programmes seen in the rest of the UK often rescheduled or not transmitted at all.[3]

In 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 the station was taken over by its neighbour Television Wales and West.

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. Both the Conservative and Labour parties promised a Welsh-language fourth channel, if elected to government in the 1979 General Election.[4] 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.

In 1980, the former president of Plaid Cymru, Gwynfor Evans, threatened to go on hunger strike if the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher didn't honour its commitment to provide a Welsh language TV service.[5] The channel started broadcasting on 1 November 1982, the night before Channel 4's opening. S4C appointed its first female CEO, Iona Jones in 2005.


S4C's remit is to provide a service which features a wide range of programmes in the Welsh language. Like Channel 4, S4C does not produce programmes of its own; instead, it commissions programmes from BBC Cymru and independent producers[6] (although the quantity purchased from ITV Wales has greatly reduced since the early years of S4C), and it has particularly developed a reputation for commissioning cartoons, such as SuperTed, Sam Tân (which became Fireman Sam in its English version on the BBC) and Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.

BBC Wales fulfills 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 e.g.: The Tweenies. On the analogue service, S4C showed programmes produced for Channel 4 in the rest of the UK outside of peak hours (usually a few days later). These programmes were provided to S4C by Channel 4, free of charge.[7]

To make them more accessible to English speakers, all Welsh language programming carries English subtitles on Teletext page 888, with Welsh subtitles on page 889. Both subtitle languages are 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 on page 889 of Teletext, featuring Welsh subtitles with additional English translations in brackets next to more difficult Welsh language words. TV movies produced for S4C have received some good foreign reviews; Hedd Wyn was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1993 and Solomon & Gaenor was nominated in 1999.[citation needed]

Those who have no interest in Welsh-language television have been known to point their aerials at the nearest English transmitters to avoid S4C, as well as BBC Wales and ITV Wales.[citation needed] However, this practice dates back before the start of S4C in 1982, when Welsh-language programming was included on BBC1 Wales and HTV Wales. S4C sports programme Sgorio has been known to reverse this practice, with English football fans watching S4C as the only British terrestrial broadcaster of Spanish and German league football.[citation needed]

The S4C analogue signal also spilled over into southeast Ireland. In the past it was rebroadcast in a number of areas there on UHF terrestrial signals by so-called 'deflectors', however Channel 4 is now re-transmitted from satellite by the few remaining deflectors. Up until the 1990s, S4C was also carried by some Irish cable and MMDS providers before being replaced by Channel 4.[citation needed]

Up until 2009, S4C ran its own teletext service, Sbectel ("Sbec", Welsh for "a peek" or "a glimpse", and a reference to an S4C schedule insert formerly included in the TV Times issues for the HTV Wales region. "Sbectol" is also Welsh for "spectacles").[citation needed]

Digital channels

Following the switch off of analogue terrestrial signals on 31 March 2010, Wales became the first fully digital nation in the UK with both S4C and Channel 4 now available to all homes. As a result, S4C now broadcasts solely in Welsh language and, as well as on Freeview in Wales, is available throughout Britain, Ireland and the rest of western Europe on Freesat and Sky. 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".[8]

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 Thursday. In addition to the analogue TV signal transmitted throughout Wales, S4C, along with United News and 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 Five.[citation needed]

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.[9] The new service, in the form of a programming bloc, launched on 23 June 2008. Under the name "Cyw" (English: 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 7am to 1.30pm on S4C.


The original logo


S4C's 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 fanfare, with the logo forming as WALES4CYMRU.[citation needed]

In 1988, the ident changed to a computer-generated ident featuring an animation of the streamlined S4C logo, the colours of the logo were blue, green and red and the new font was based on Bodoni MT. Other idents featuring a weather vane with the S4C logo and a water based setting were used during the early 1990s.[citation needed]


The 1995 Logo

In 1993, designed by Lambie-Nairn, a new series of idents debuted. The new idents featured inanimate objects such as a red kite, a pair of scissors, a man in a dragon costume, a gas pipe, a garlic press, a fan, a Sousaphone, and a standpipe representing a Dragon (specifically, Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon depicted on the flag of Wales) usually by trying to fly or breathe fire like a dragon. These idents carried on through 2006 (with a logo change in 1995, featuring a new Futura Heavy font and a tilde representing the Dragon motif). The Dragon idents were retired in January 2007 alongside a wider relaunch of the channel.[citation needed]

Current Idents

In January 2007, S4C announced that their digital channels would be refreshed by a new corporate logo and brand.[10]

On 17 January, s4c.co.uk was updated with the new look, with S4C channels adopting the new look from 18 January. The S4C logo used since 1995, often stylised as "S4C~" because of the "dragon" design element which accompanied it, was replaced. The new design emphasises the channel's Welsh connection with the "C" for Cymru (Wales) separated from the "S4" (Channel 4) by a forward stroke. S4C2 is now seen on screen as S4C Dau (Two), and listed as S4C2 on the broadcaster's website and on Sky. The theme of the new idents was the magnetism of the Welsh society, represented by many objects gathering in one place, such as shopping carts at a grocery store, balloons in a roof, buoys in a dock, the Penarth pier at Vale of Glamorgan, and golf carts at a golf course. These idents were produced by Proud Creative, a London based design firm. In 2007, another new set of live-action idents debuted, featuring live rendered dynamic elements which react to the voice of the continuity announcers, an effect similar to the initial idents of BBC Four, but utilizing live-action footage instead of 3D rendered footage.[11]


  • S4C
  • S4C Clirlun (high-definition)
  • Cyw (programming bloc on S4C)


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".[12] An S4C spokesperson responded that 90% of these programmes were aimed at children, whose viewing isn't fully measured by BARB, the organisation that compiles television ratings in the UK, as they only take into account viewers aged four years and over.[13] The remaining 10% consisted of repeats and daytime news bulletins.

On 28 July 2010, S4C's chief executive Iona Jones left her post without explanation. Assembly members and Members of Parliament have asked for an independent investigation into the circumstances leading up to her departure. The S4C Authority has refused to comment any further on the matter and commissioned a review into how the broadcaster is governed in August 2010.[14]

Funding and regulation

S4C is financed from its advertising revenue and a fixed annual grant from the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), receiving £94m of funding in 2007.[15]

Additionally, some Welsh-language programming (including Newyddion and Pobol y Cwm) is produced by BBC Wales as part of the BBC's public service remit, and provided to S4C free of charge. S4C is controlled by the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority (Welsh: Awdurod Sianel Pedwar Cymru or Awdurdod S4C), an independent body unconnected to Ofcom which regulates other UK television channels such as ITV or Channel 4.

From 2013, responsibility for funding S4C will begin to transfer to the BBC, with the DCMS reducing its funding by 94% by 2015.[16] 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.[17] This decision has been challenged by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society), which wants the proposed transfer of responsibility for funding S4C from DCMS to the BBC to be stopped.[18]



Clic is a free online video on demand service provided by S4C.[19] Clic offers a 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: Cyw, Drama, Entertainment, Factual and Arts, Music, Sport and Stwnsh. A Clic app was release for Apple's iOS devices on 18 August 2011.[20]

See also

Related Welsh television services


  1. ^ a b "S4C launches new High Definition channel - Clirlun". S4C. 2010-03-29. http://www.s4c.co.uk/e_press_level2.shtml?id=324. 
  2. ^ "Clirlun". S4C. http://www.s4c.co.uk/clirlun/e_index.shtml. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  3. ^ "Welshing on TV". The Economist: p. 75. 1980-06-28. 
  4. ^ Hancock, Dafydd. "A channel for Wales". EMC Seefour. Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. http://www.transdiffusion.org/emc/seefour/wales.php. 
  5. ^ "Gwynfor Evans at 90". BBC News Online. 2002-09-01. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/2227826.stm. 
  6. ^ Green, Miranda (1995). "Language and Identity in Modern Wales". The Celtic World. Routledge. p. 800. ISBN 9780415057646. 
  7. ^ Catterall, Peter (1999). The Making of Channel 4. Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 9780714649269. 
  8. ^ Laughton, Roger (July 2004). S4C:An Independent Review. Department for Culture, Media and Sport. pp. 32. http://www.s4c.co.uk/abouts4c/authority/pdf/e_adolygiad_laughton.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  9. ^ "S4C unveils kids' channel and rebrand". Broadcast Now (subscription required to view article). 2007-01-20. http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/news/s4c_unveils_kids_channel_and_rebrand.html. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  10. ^ Oatts, Joanne (2007-01-09). "S4C gets a rebrand". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/article/ds41509.html. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  11. ^ The new S4/C idents, that react to voice.|idents.tv
  12. ^ http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2010/03/10/figures-reveal-failure-of-s4c-to-attract-tv-audiences-91466-25999157/
  13. ^ Evans, Carys (2010-11-04). "These are the facts about S4C, but why let them spoil a good headline?". WalesOnline.co.uk. Media Wales Ltd. http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/columnists/2010/11/04/these-are-the-facts-about-s4c-but-why-let-them-spoil-a-good-headline-91466-27600820. 
  14. ^ Sir Jon Shortridge appointed to undertake S4C corporate governance review, S4C press release, 19 August 2010
  15. ^ "About us". www.s4c.co.uk. S4C. http://www.s4c.co.uk/abouts4c/e_index.shtml. Retrieved 2008-06-03. "The Department for Culture, Media and Sport finances S4C. In 2007, the Channel received a £94.4m grant from the DCMS." 
  16. ^ "S4C brings £90m to Welsh economy, finds new research". BBC News. 2010-11-05. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11696905. 
  17. ^ "S4C seeks judicial review over BBC funding move". BBC News. 2010-10-20. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11581346. 
  18. ^ S4C vigil: campaigners ask management to wake up
  19. ^ "Questions about Clic". S4C. http://www.s4c.co.uk/clic/e_faqs.shtml. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  20. ^ "S4C Clic app now available for the iPad". S4C. 18 August 2011. http://www.s4c.co.uk/e_press_level2.shtml?id=550. 

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