Daily Telegraph figures for S4C are wrong (and possibly dishonest)

David Hughes at the Daily Telegraph asks today “Is £1,000 per viewer an acceptable price to pay for Welsh language telly?”.

I don’t usually do “reactive” blog posts. But there is a serious mistake here which we can hope to correct before it becomes a canard. He says (emphasis mine):

As part of its belated introduction into the real world, the BBC has been landed with the £100 million a year annual bill for S4C, the Welsh language channel. That may sound like peanuts in the context of the corporation’s £3.6 billion annual spend but it highlights the fact that S4C’s viewers are the most lavishly subsidised in the world. As these viewing figures show, the biggest audience the channel gets – for its daily soap Pobol Y Cwm (People of the Valley) – is just over 100,000 viewers (most of the channel’s output commands far smaller audiences – 25,000 viewers will get a programme into S4C’s Top 20). It means that each of those viewers is costing the taxpayer (and, from now on, the licence fee payer) about £1000. This extraordinary level of subsidy has gone largely unremarked since S4C was set up nearly 30 years ago. That’s largely because the channel is of high quality and has played an absolutely crucial role in the revival of the Welsh language. Many would argue that this is a reasonable price to pay for such a prize. But such largesse is certain to come under increasing scrutiny in the forthcoming age of austerity.

This is wrong. Hughes is dividing the total cost of S4C by the number of viewers for ONE programme.

He arrives at a figure of £1000 per viewer because he has only taken Pobol Y Cwm into account. Ergo, the Pobol Y Cwm audience is the S4C audience.

This answer could only be correct if none of the other (many) S4C programmes is bringing other viewers to the channel. He should be looking at the cumulative audience for S4C which is a more difficult figure to get. We can’t assume anything either, given how diverse S4C is – and has to be.

Any such calculation assumes the quoted viewing figures from BARB are reliable too. That’s something which I found doubtful back in January this year because of their inadequate sample size but continues to be unquestioningly accepted among some of the press.

If you don’t watch Pobol Y Cwm but you do watch S4C, Hughes has missed you from his calculation. And if you’re a taxpayer then you may take issue with phrases like “lavishly subsidised” and “largesse” as well.

Comments are off but trackbacks and pingbacks are on.