The hunt for 8.4 million Welsh-speaking telly addicts

15 July 2015
What was claimed

8.4 million people are watching S4C every week in the UK.

Our verdict

S4C's annual report actually says 578,000.

This article has been updated.

"I am sure he will welcome the news in S4C's annual report that 8.4 million people are watching S4C every week in the UK—an increase of 10% on the previous year." Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister responsible for broadcasting, 14 Jul 2015

As S4C is the only Welsh language TV channel in the world, and only 3.1 million people live in Wales, 8.4 million is a surprisingly large number of weekly viewers.

The claim is wrong, and it's not clear what the Minister might have meant. According to S4C's annual report

  • 578,000 people watch S4C across the UK in an average week, down from 599,000 in 2012.
  • In a month it's 1.4m (up from 1.3m, most of a 10% increase).
  • In a year it's 6.5m (up from 5.3m, a 23% increase).

The report also shows that the average time spent viewing S4C each week by Welsh speaking viewers in Wales was 8 hours and 4 minutes. It is just possible that is the source of the confusion. That figure is up from 7 hours and 53 minutes, but it's not up by 10%.

These figures come from BARB, the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board, a standard source for TV viewing data in the UK.

To take another view, S4C research into Welsh speakers' language use in their daily lives, which surveyed 483 Welsh speakers, found that 70% had watched Welsh language TV in the past week.

The 2011 Census found 562,000 Welsh speakers living in Wales.

That implies 393,400 Welsh speaking weekly TV watchers.

On either basis, the number of weekly Welsh-language viewers is around half a million and certainly not close to 8.4 million.

Update 16/07/2015

The new 2014/15 S4C annual report is due to be published next week.

This article has now been published in Welsh. Our thanks to @cwlcymro for the translation. 

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