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Welsh Fourth Channel Service

Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what applications he has received from cable operators in Wales for permission to distribute the Fourth Channel service rather than the Welsh Fourth Channel service; and what decisions he has reached.

In the Government's observations on the second report from the Committee on Welsh Affairs, Session 1980–81, Cmnd. 8469, and in response to a specific recommendation by the Committee, I indicated that I would be willing in certain circumstances to consider applications from cable operators in Wales for permission to distribute the United Kingdom Fourth Channel service (C4UK) rather than the Welsh Fourth Channel service (S4C) if they could satisfy me that this was the wish of the majority of subscribers. I would also need to be satisfied before granting permission that the cable systems in respect of which applications were made had insufficient capacity to carry both services and that—in order not to deprive any viewers of the opportunity of receiving S4C—an adequate S4C signal was generally available off-air in the area concerned.Rediffusion Ltd. conducted a ballot of the subscribers to 18 of its cable systems in South Wales and has made application to me in respect of 16 systems, in the following areas: Abertillery, Bargoed, Bargoed South, Deri, Merthyr, Newbridge, Newport, Pontlottyn, Pontypool, Morriston, Swansea, Caerphilly, Llangeinor, Maesteg, Pontypridd, Rhondda. Rediffusion informs me that the result of the ballot was that just over half of its subscribers voted and of these a substantial majority expressed a preference for receiving the C4UK-rather than S4C.However, representations have been made to me and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales that it would not be right, at least at the present time, to permit cable distribution of C4UK rather than S4C. These representations reflect concern that the result of the ballot of subscribers who cast their votes in Rediffusion shops may in some instances have been unreliable, partly because the nature of the S4C service and the choice open to subscribers may not have been adequately explained to them; they also reflect the view that a decision should not be taken in advance of the launching of S4C.Having considered the matter very carefully in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales I have come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances I should not authorise the distribution of C4UK rather than S4C on the systems concerned at this stage and without more reliable information concerning the wishes of subscribers.