Wednesday, 30 March 2011

“My Wife Are 17 Years Pregnant” (S4C Viewing Figures)


As part of Operation Get Much Less In Return For All The Taxes You Pay, the coalition government has put in place plans for the budget of Welsh-language channel S4C to be cut by 25% by 2015, 'cos hey, no-one watches it do they? OR DO THEY? The numbers shall TELL ALL.

First up, a quick statsweep.

Going by the figures listed at, 59,600,000 people in the UK speak English. Meanwhile, going by figures supplied by the Welsh Language Board, a total of 611,000 people currently speak and understand the Welsh language. So, are the most successful English-language programmes attracting a higher proportion of the potential viewers than those for Welsh-speakers? We'll take a look at the figures for one week of the last four quarters, taking in shows from BBC One and ITV1, comparing them to S4C.


(Right after “the jump”, if you’re reading this from the front page.)

Figures from BARB, as ever, starting with the most recent available figures, from the weekending 20th March 2011, then looking back at weeks ending 19th December, 19th September and 20th June 2010. So, top ten shows from each week, then sorted by audience figures and then crucially looking at the population share of all English speakers (note, that’s not audience share, the proportion of people watching TV at that given time, but rather from the Anglophonic population as a whole).

Which means the rundown for BBC One is…


Quite a lot of big hitters there, you’ll note. A couple of Strictly episodes, Comic Relief from a couple of weeks back, and a World Cup Finals. Very nearly 24% of the English-speaking population were sat in front of BBC for the top show – a very impressive number, considering the many alternate forms of entertainment on offer in this modern space-age era of iPhones and jetpacks. What of the light channel?


An England World Cup match (England-Algeria) amongst other matches from South Africa 2010, some early rounds of X Factor 2010, and oodles of soaps. Still impressive numbers though, with just over one in five of the UK’s English speakers propped in front of their tellies for that dire 0-0 drudge. While the figures at the top are slightly lower than that of the Beeb, it’s lower down the chart where ITV come good, with every show in that top 40 getting a population share of higher than 10%, which only applies to the top 32 shows on BBC One.

Anyway, on to the numbers for S4C, which we’re sure will hover around the “7 farmers and a sheepdog” point, if received opinion is anything to go by.


Okay, given a mere 611,000 people actually speak the language the programmes are in, the shows were hardly likely to attract viewers in their millions, but it’s where the population share comes in that things get interesting. The most watched show – a December episode of soap opera Pobol Y Cwm – attracted 26% of Welsh speakers, outstripping the population share of the top shows on both BBC One and ITV1. Those numbers tail off further down the chart of course, with only 25 shows attracting more than 10% of the potential audience, but given the huge difference in programming budgets between S4C and The Big Two, that’s certainly a commendable performance by “The ‘Eck” (as we’re sure absolutely no-one calls it).


You know what this blog post is lacking? That’s right, a largely pointless chart that only illustrates what you’re perfectly capable of working out for yourself from the numbers up there. And here it is.


So, there you go. S4C is pretty much as important to it’s potential audience as BBC One and ITV1 are to their potential audiences.

At this point, not unreasonably, words might be tumbling from your mouth along the lines of "aah, but there are hundreds of English-language channels operating in the UK, while all Welsh-speakers will be concentrated on S4C. That's your opinion speedily blown out of the water, you fat idiot". Tsk. So brusque. And so wrong, as the two groups aren't mutually exclusive - the vastest majority of Welsh speakers also speak perfectly good English, meaning that the hundreds of English-language channels are also a viable viewing option for them. If anything, S4C has MORE competition for its viewers than any English speaking channel, albeit only very slightly:


At this point, you might well be saying something like: "Aah, but you're only saying all this because you don't want your precious Welsh language to suffer, cleverly using ‘facts’ and ‘logic’ to try and sneak your point past my suspicious eyes. Go on, get lost and go have sex with a leek or whatever it is you Welsh-speakers do”.

Well, truth is, we don’t speak Welsh. Never have, tremendously unlikely that we ever will. Why else do you think we’ve kept ourselves amused by posting in lots of pictures of John Sparkes characters? It’s the closest we can get to connecting with the tongues of our forefathers.

Hang on… ugh. That’s a horrible thought.



4 .:

crispy said...

damn you! you got the wife and me unreasonably excited that you had a john sparkes only thread! (still, very interesting - thank you!)

Mark X said...

Well, I had to employ *some* tactic to fool people into reading a blog update about viewing figures for a Welsh language TV channel...

C Davies said...

An excellent article, also its worth noting BARB don't actually count the number of viewers of children programmes receive, so given the fact CYW, Welsh language kids shows, are one of the most popular viewing areas of S4C, probably fair to say that there are far more who actually watch the channel than the offical figures suggest.

roy rocket said...

Awesome post, butt.

Does BARB take into account those now watching programmes via I Player?
Coz like me, I reckon there are plenty who don't watch live broadcast TV anymore.

Having lived in Wales for the last twenty years, I have probably watched S4C collectively for about an hour; my partner maybe a week - she liked 'Y Pris' especially, and as a Welsh language learner watches the occasional 'Newyddion' & 'Wedi' [sic].

I do recognise the value of a minority language channel - as did good ol' Thatch; mind you she couldn't really have tolerated old Welsh men starving them selves to death for the cause - but I'm not sure if unloading the burden on to the BBC and the license payer is really very fair.
After all, the BBC have just closed down their Portuguese service, and I've got a feeling there may be a few more Brazillians out there than there are Welsh....

But hey. Cheers for the provocative post; I'll certainly be pointing my media students in your direction. roy

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