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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
I'm a celebrity, get me Welsh TV...

By Tom Bourton
BBC Wales News Online

Chris Moyles
Chris Moyles has encouraged listeners to watch S4C
Jonathan Ross and Chris Moyles have been talking about it for months.

Now leading TV critic Victor Lewis-Smith has joined the ranks of celebrity viewers across the UK using digital TV to watch Welsh language channel S4C.

In this new digital world, viewers have more choice of what to watch than ever before.

In his newspaper column this week, Lewis-Smith told readers that S4C was "well worth a look".

He particularly recommended the "natural and often funny" dialogue of the long-running soap opera Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley), although he did claim that very little happens in the way of storylines "in a typical episode".

With far more to choose on the digital platform, all channels are facing a tough fight to secure audiences.

This is particularly the case in Wales which, with almost 60% of homes having access to digital TV, is leading digital take-up in the UK.

Pobol y Cwm, made by BBC Wales, has been on air for 30 years
Pobol y Cwm, made by BBC Wales, has been on air for 30 years

Of course, the breadth of choice from cable, satellite and free-to-air services cuts both ways.

Viewers in Wales can check out what is going on all over the UK, whether they are nominally regional shows such as the evening news on BBC Scotland, or network radio stations, like BBC Six and 1Xtra.

On the other side, UK audiences can watch programmes on BBC One Wales, 2W and S4C, or listen to Radio Wales and Radio Cymru via their TVs, digital radios or the internet.

Martyn Ingram, commissioning editor of BBC Wales' 2W - an English-language channel available in the evenings - said that the increased level of competition was "something we all have to live with".

"We do get a lot of people who watch in other parts of the UK, especially sports events," he said.

"There are some ex-pats, but not exclusively."

In the evolving digital world, Plaid Cymru is urging the UK government to make Wales one of the first areas to completely switch over to digital television from the current analogue service.

Ceredigion MP Simon Thomas argued that using Wales as a testing ground for the new technology would help ensure rural areas do not miss out when the analogue switch-off takes place between 2006-2010.

Wowing audiences

One thing is certain - public support from celebrities is not going to hurt any channel.

Regular listeners to Jonathan Ross' BBC Two radio show on Saturday mornings will be used to him talking about the joys of watching S4C on "digidol" from his London home.

Victor Lewis-Smith
Victor Lewis-Smith has spoken of watching Pobol y Cwm

And Radio One DJ Chris Moyles has been actively encouraging his audience to tune into S4C's WawFfactor, on which one of his team - BB Aled - helps judge wannabe singers.

Aled, who is from Aberystwyth, said the show did wonders for his national profile.

"I had a lot of people in England coming up and recognising me - I asked how and they said because of WawFfactor," he said.

A new series of the show is planned for next year, and Aled expects Chris Moyles to tune in again and pull in plenty of fresh viewers in his wake.

"Now we are on the breakfast show, we can educate a brand new lot of English people into the WawFfactor phenomenon."

S4C says it is delighted at picking up viewers across the UK, and claims it is not just appealing to "Welsh exiles eager for a taste of home".

"Viewers with no connection to Wales are watching our programmes because they find them entertaining in their own right," said a spokesman.

"Only this week, members of the public from Swindon and Dundee registered to take part in S4C's harness horse racing series Rasus' viewers' competition."

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross has programmes on both BBC 1 and Radio 2

Delyth Ford, originally from Ruthin, north Wales now lives in Stevenage, north of London, with her husband Steffan.

"I watch Pobol y Cwm every night, and I didn't when I was at home," she said.

"It is nice to hear Welsh spoken in the home.

"I watch Newyddion too as everyone knows everyone in Wales so there is a good chance of seeing people we know.

"And it is a godsend for Cardiff Blues rugby games on a Saturday."

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18 Feb 03  |  Wales


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