From Dusk Till Dawn
In 2014, a harrowing detective drama called Y Gwyll (The Dusk) became the first original Welsh language programme to be streamed to US audiences. Online streaming giant Netflix still belonged to tomorrow’s world when, in 1980, Gwynfor Evans the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen threatened to kill himself by starvation if Margaret Thatcher didn’t reverse her decision to renege on a pre-election promise of providing a Welsh-language TV service. Not wanting to create a Welsh martyr, Thatcher’s capitulation was the dawn of Welsh television.
In the 1970’s, a government report recommended that the planned fourth national TV channel be bilingual in Wales. When plans for Channel 4 were drawn up by the new conservative administration under Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980’s, this recommendation (and her own commitment to uphold this idea) was dropped. A formidable campaign for the introduction of Welsh television was launched by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith (The Welsh Language Society), culminating in the threat of hunger strike by Evans. In 1982, Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C) was born. Together with the Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru, S4C has produced many popular Welsh learners programmes and helped to preserve one Europe’s oldest languages.
S4C’s remit is to provide a service which features a wide range of programmes in the Welsh language. S4C does not produce programmes of its own; instead, it commissions programmes in Welsh from the BBC and independent producers. It has particularly developed a reputation for commissioning cartoons, such as SuperTed (which won a BAFTA in 1987), Fireman Sam (Sam TÃ¢n) and Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. BBC Wales fulfills its public service requirement by producing programmes in Welsh for S4C, including Newyddion, S4C’s news bulletin, and a soap opera, Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley). To make Welsh language programmes accessible to English speakers they all carry English subtitles; the usual Welsh subtitles are also available.
Pobl Y Cwm is arguably S4C’s biggest success, being shown in many countries across the world. First aired in 1974, it is made for S4C by BBC Wales and gave Hollywood actor Ioan Gruffudd his first big TV break. It was allowed into the Royal Television Society Hall of Fame in October of 2004.
TV movies produced for S4C have received some good foreign reviews ”” Hedd Wyn being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1993 and Solomon & Gaenor being nominated in 1999.
The channel broadcasts a wide range of Welsh language programmes for nursery age children each weekday between 7am and 1.30pm under the name Cyw.
In 2013, Y Gwyll was first aired on S4C. It was ground breaking in that it was filmed simultaneously in Welsh and English (with some Welsh language scenes to reflect the reality of life in Wales). The English version is called Hinterland and was filmed around the isolated coastal town of Aberystwyth. The series features a tortured police detective who roams an atmospheric and bleak landscape. It has gained much critical aclaim and been aquired by US online streaming giant Netfix as well as DR Denmark, the Danish broadcaster behind The Killing. Perhaps this is a new dawn for Welsh television?
S4C is available on Freeview, satellite and cable and is available in all our holiday cottages via Freesat HDTV.