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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 October 2007, 12:00 GMT
Digital S4C 'could be bilingual'
Adrian Browne
BBC Wales political reporter

S4C
The Welsh fourth channel is celebrating 25 years on air
Assembly government heritage minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas has argued that Welsh fourth TV channel S4C could be bilingual after digital switchover.

His comment coincides with MP Chris Bryant's call for S4C to transmit programmes about Wales in English and Welsh after 2010 to protect its future.

After analogue switch-off, S4C will no longer re-broadcast Channel 4 output.

S4C said it wanted to "welcome" both Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers in the future as it had in the past.

Mr Thomas does not have responsibility for broadcasting in Wales - that rests with the UK government.

But he raised the possibility of S4C transmitting original English language programmes about Wales after the digital switchover on BBC Wales' current affairs programme Week in Week Out.

On the current analogue S4C service, some Channel 4 programmes in English are shown.

Chris Bryant MP
Part of Wales is Welsh language, and part of Wales is English language - we should be able to marry those two together in one channel
Chris Bryant MP, Labour

Mr Thomas said: "I would argue that there needs to be far more programmes through the medium of English about Wales and its people as well - perhaps there could be a channel which shares those interests.

"But S4C has played a very important part over the last 25 years, and is still a very very important ingredient of what is being done to promote the Welsh language."

Asked if the channel should be bilingual he said: "It could well be a bilingual channel in the new situation".

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant has called for the channel to broadcast programmes in English to protect its future by ensuring it "offers something to the whole of Wales".

He said: "I would like to see a Welsh channel, which is about Wales.

"Part of Wales is Welsh language, and part of Wales is English language - we should be able to marry those two together in one channel."

In a pamphlet on future broadcasting, Mr Bryant also says that responsibility for the S4C's budget should be devolved to the Welsh assembly.

'Will'

S4C authority chair John Walter Jones indicated a more limited role for the English language on the channel in future but said it had a duty to welcome non-Welsh speakers, as it had in the past.

"I know that they enjoy rugby, they enjoy Sgorio, they watch it, they understand it and they value it," he said.

S4C chief executive Iona Jones said it would be necessary over the next few years to discuss the way in which the bilingual nature of Wales was reflected on TV.

But she insisted that no money earmarked for Welsh programmes should be used to produce English medium programmes.

"If there is a will in Wales to provide such a service then we would be prepared to look into that," she told BBC Radio Cymru's Manylu in an interview to mark the channel's 25th anniversary.

"But extra funding would have to be made available in order for that the be achieved. Without that extra money, we would be on dangerous ground from the point of view of our main prupose as a Welsh language channel."

Week in Week Out is on BBC One Wales at 2235 GMT on Tuesday. Also a series on the story of Welsh-language TV, Teledu'r Cymry, starts at 2100 GMT on S4C.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
An S4C campaigner warns of opposition to a bilingual channel.



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