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Report reveals toxic infighting at S4C

THE FORMER Chief Executive of Welsh language broadcaster S4C created an atmosphere of fear at the channel, bullied staff and behaved “like a dictator”.

Those are the findings of an explosive report prepared for S4C by Capital Law, the Cardiff-based legal team hired to investigate misconduct allegations.

S4C has around 120 employees; 92 spoke to Capital Law during its investigation.

A CULTURE OF FEAR

The report outlines several recurring complaints about Sian Doyle, who was sacked as S4C’s Chief Executive last week.

Participants reported that Sian Doyle’s leadership style was: “dictatorial, creating a culture of fear”. 

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The report also records incidents when the former CEO spoke in a foul-mouthed and derogatory way about on-screen and backroom staff, belittled those who raised questions, and belittled staff in meetings. Her “confrontational” behaviour reduced some to tears, caused others to suffer adversely with their mental health, and contributed towards staff leaving S4C.

One employee reported suffering “a major health event” at a management away day meeting in Llangrannog.

The employee described an animated conversation involving the Chief Executive and other senior staff members about the level of change required at S4C. 

The conversation spoke about replacing many staff who were described as: “not worth worrying about” and that the Chief Executive suggested a lot of the staff at S4C did not have the skills or knowledge to justify being in their jobs. Sian Doyle reportedly suggested losing: “at least 50 of them”.

Conversely, several participants recognised that change is needed within S4C and that the general strategic direction Sian Doyle was working towards was positive. Investigators also heard from staff who spoke positively about her and described her conduct towards them as “supportive”.

STAFF IN THE CROSSFIRE

Making recommendations about S4C’s future broadcasting and commissioning strategy was far beyond the report’s remit. However, it is clear from the issues in the report that there is considerable tension within the organisation over its direction.

The report’s content permits the inference that different parts of S4C management were engaged in guerilla warfare against each other, and staff were caught in the crossfire between the rival camps. 

That inference is strongly supported by a statement by the S4C Authority that said, “Participants recognised that change is needed at S4C and that the senior management team were intent on delivering an ambitious vision for the channel’s future. 

“It appears, however, that the way some shared this with staff and the approach to managing change across the organisation was insensitive.

“This often led to conflict and insecurity rather than creativity and a positive, inclusive transformation. It is clear that many S4C staff have been unhappy at work and that our organisation did not seem to have appropriate working practices to deal openly and appropriately with staff concerns.”

S4C SAYS SORRY

The S4C Authority issued a statement: “The report paints a picture of a very difficult working environment for many at S4C. Participants described an unsettling workplace, with some individual members of the senior management team behaving inappropriately and with an approach that directly impacted the well-being of staff.

“As members of the S4C Authority, we would like to say sorry to those who have had to tolerate unacceptable behaviours in the workplace and for the upset that this has caused. We would like to thank you for your openness and honesty in sharing your experiences, enabling the failings highlighted in today’s report to be identified.”

The statement continued: “The S4C Authority is committed to ensuring that S4C is a place where our colleagues are happy and safe – a place where they feel able to perform at their best and thrive. We recognise that significant work is required to implement new working methods that will allow S4C to build a positive future with a supported and creative workforce. 

“To do that, we need to restore confidence and trust amongst our staff, who have a crucial role in the organisation’s future success. Integral to that success is leadership focussed on collaboration and communication. As an Authority, we decided this would require new leadership at S4C, and we will shortly make further announcements about that process.”

SENEDD SUMMONS FOR S4C

The Senedd’s Culture Committee has called members of the S4C Board to give evidence on Thursday, December 14.

Delyth Jewell MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee, said:

“The continued allegations in the media related to S4C are deeply worrying. 

“With rumours and speculation circulating, the Committee is keen for these questions to be answered publicly. 

“We are inviting the Chair and a member of S4C’s Board to give evidence next week to bring clarity for the people of Wales.

“To restore public trust in the broadcaster, it is essential that they are open and transparent in this process. 

“To this end, we welcome the report’s publication and will consider its contents before speaking to S4C next week.

“We know how important the success of S4C is for the Welsh language and Wales as a country and we will be doing all we can to get answers from the channel’s leadership over the coming weeks.”

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