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S4C ( , meaning Channel Four Wales), currently branded as S4/C, is a Welshmarker television channel broadcast from the capital, Cardiffmarker. The first television channel to be aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience, it is (after BBC One, ITV and BBC Two) the fourth oldest Britishmarker terrestrial television channel (Channel 4 was launched in the rest of the United Kingdommarker one day later).

There are two versions of the channel: the first, broadcast on analogue television, is bilingual (Welsh and English) with most of its English-language programming being either simultaneous relays or deferred retransmissions of material broadcast by Channel 4 (analogue reception of which is unavailable in most of Wales); the second, on digital television (which also supplies Channel 4 to viewers in Wales), is a 100% Welsh-language service, branded (S4C Digital).


S4C's remit is to provide a service which is in the Welsh language in peak viewing hours. S4C does not produce programmes of its own; instead, it commissions programmes in Welsh from the BBC and independent producers (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 , S4C's news bulletin, and a soap opera, , and providing them to S4C free of charge. It has also provided (or licensed) Welsh language versions of English language programmes eg: The Tweenies. On the analogue service, S4C shows programmes produced for Channel 4 in the rest of the UK outside of peak hours (usually a few days later). These programmes are provided to S4C by Channel 4 free of charge.

On of the highest rated programmes on S4C in recent years was the final of Big Brother 5marker, which attracted over 115,000 viewers.

To make them more accessible to English speakers, all Welsh language programming carries English subtitles on Teletext page 888 (sometimes marketed as transl888), 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 those during the (Learning at 12) slot and the children's programmes and , 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 being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1993 and Solomon & Gaenor being nominated in 1999.

Those who have no interest in Welsh-language TV have been known to point their aerials at the nearest English transmitters to avoid S4C, as well as BBC Wales and HTV Wales. However this practice dates back before the start of S4C in 1982, when Welsh-language programming was included on BBC1 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.

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

On analogue and digital satellite, S4C runs its own teletext service, Sbectel ( , 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. is also Welsh for "spectacles").

Digital channels

On digital television, the (S4C Digital) variant of S4C is broadcast. As Channel 4 is available in Wales on all digital platforms, S4C Digidol is an exclusively Welsh language service broadcast within Wales on Freeview and throughout Britain, Ireland and the rest of western Europe on Freesat and Sky Digital. S4C's Welsh programming generally airs simultaneously on S4C Digidol, while Channel 4 programming shown on the analogue channel is replaced with either original commissions or repeats of Welsh language programmes on the digital service. A review commissoned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2004 suggested that "S4C should operate a single core service after digital switchover".

S4C2 Logo
In addition, S4C also operates a sister channel, S4C2. It broadcasts coverage of the National Assembly for Wales when it is in session. The programme content is provided by the BBC. Like , S4C2 is available within Wales on Freeview and throughout the UK and Ireland on Freesat and Sky Digital. S4C2 has two audio feeds, allowing viewers to select between an untranslated version and an English-only version where all Welsh spoken is translated into English.

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 Five.

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.

One benefit of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in Wales is that Channel 4 can now be broadcast alongside S4C, thereby placating disgruntled English speakers who have often had to put up with Channel 4 programmes aired hours or days later (if at all) on S4C. It remains to be seen what impact the availability of Channel 4 will have on S4C, as both channels share a significant proportion of their English output. However, by launching its all-Welsh digital service, S4C has essentially conceded that its future will be in serving that language only, and not as a mixed-language service.

In January 2007, S4C announced plans to launch a Welsh-language children's service. The channel was due to launch on 29 October 2007 and advertisements for the channel had been airing on S4C.

The new service launched on 23 June 2008. Under the name "Cyw" ( ), it brings together a wide range of programmes for nursery-age children, and S4C plans eventually to extend the service to include the "Planed Plant" ( ) strand.

The service currently airs Monday to Friday from 7 am to 1.30 pm on S4C's digital channel (Sky: 134 outside Wales - 104 inside Wales), and features colourful characters as bumpers into and out of programmes. These include Cyw, a very excitable and friendly chick; Plwmp and Deryn (bird), an elephant and his best friend, a small fuschia-coloured bird which sits on his head most of the time; Jangl, a giraffe; Llew the lion, and Bolgi the dog. Images of these characters can be found on the channel's new website, details of which are listed below.


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.

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. Shortly after the Conservatives won a majority in the election, the new home secretary Willie 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. The channel started broadcasting on 1 November 1982, the night before Channel 4's opening.

On-air identity

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 WALE'S4CYMRU. In 1988, the ident changed to a computer-generated ident featuring an animation of the streamlined S4C logo. Other idents featuring a weather vane with the S4C logo and a water based setting were used during the early 1990s. In 1992, a new series of idents debuted. The new idents featured inanimate objects such as a kite and a stapler 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 modernized font and a tilde representing the Dragon motif). The Dragon idents were retired in January 2007 alongside a wider relaunch of the channel.

In January 2007, S4C announced that their digital channels would be refreshed by a new corporate logo and brand.. On 17 January, 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, 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.


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.In addition, some Welsh-language programming (including and ) 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 ( or ), an independent body unconnected to Ofcommarker which regulates other UK television channels such as ITV or Channel 4.

See also


  2. The new S4/C idents, that react to voice. |

External links

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