New Leadership For S4C’s Digital Investment Fund

Welsh-language broadcaster has appointed John Davies to lead a multi-million pound online and television content fund.

Pembrokeshire County Council leader Davies is replacing fellow S4C Authority member Sir Roger Jones as chair of S4C Digital Media because Jones’ term on the authority, which oversees S4C as a whole, expired in November. Another authority member, Dyfrig Jones, is also joining as a director.

S4C Digital Media was originally designed as a commercial arm through which publicly-funded S4C would make technology investments, after reaping £33 ($51.57) million in 2005 by selling its stake in the SDN Freeview multiplex.

But the company only ever made one investment – an unsuccessful £9.5 ($14.84) million 2008 funding in to IPTV firm Inuk Networks. Now the remaining money will be redirected in three ways…

  1. £1 ($1.56) million from S4C Digital Media’s remaining funds would be used instead to invest for minority stakes in commercial TV co-productions, rising by £1 ($1.56) million a year over three years (release).
  2. “S4C Digital Media is still intending to launch a digital fund from its commercial reserves,” S4C confirmed to paidContent.
  3. “With the substantial cut in S4C’s public funding, it is envisaged that most of the commercial reserves will be used to fund dividends to S4C’s public fund over the coming years, in order that S4C can continue to provide original, high-quality content to its audiences,” S4C added.

S4C Digital Media lost £5.8 ($9.06) million last year from its lone investment because its stake in Inuk was diluted by Inuk’s subsequent sale to Move Networks and by Move’s own sale to EchoStar.

That reduced S4C Digital Media’s assets down to £26.7 ($41.73) million at 2010’s end, according to most recent accounts. But S4C tells now paidContent: “The commercial group reserves available for use are less than you stated, after taking into account accumulated losses from the now closed service, S4C2.”

S4C expects to launch the funds following consideration of consultation responses to a report submitted to it by an advisory forum it assembled to seek ideas for its new media strategy. Amongst the main recommendations is to appoint its first digital director.

S4C has been facing financial worries in part because its funding source was switched controversially from the UK government to the BBC this year. The bulk of S4C Digital Media’s remaining money will go toward plugging the funding gap.