He said it was difficult to imagine Wales and the situation of the Welsh language without S4C by today, and that it was important for S4C to remain a Welsh language channel after the digital switchover.
He was speaking at an international conference, “S4C: the first 25 years”, that was held over the week-end in Aberystwyth to note 25 years of S4C.
Rhodri Glyn Thomas said:
I'm very glad to be here today to celebrate 25 years of the existence of S4C and to look to the future, which need to, of course, include a designated Welsh language channel. And be sure of one thing, neither I nor the Welsh Assembly Government want to cut back on services to Welsh speakers.
S4C has made an enormous contribution to Welsh speaking and non-Welsh speaking Wales and has bought the language and Welsh culture to a new audience. The channel has contributed to the confidence and identity of the nation, and has normalised the language by demonstrating that Welsh is an everyday language.
It's difficult to imagine the situation of Wales of the language today without S4C and it's difficult to measure its contribution to the language. But there has been a significant change over the past 25 years. In 1982 there were four channels; there are many more today.
Technical changes mean that S4C has to change and adapt to the new digital world and the channel has done that. But I think there needs to be a Welsh language channel and that Welsh programmes need protecting. We need more programmes in English about Wales, but perhaps on an English or bilingual channel. Not in place of S4C.
The proposed development of a new children's channel is very exciting. Children are the future of our country and language. And I'm sure it will be invaluable to non-Welsh speaking parents who want their children to learn the language.
But there needs to be a discussion about the way ahead. Of course, broadcasting has not been devolved. In the future I would like to see the powers for S4C devolved to the National Assembly. But I don't believe S4C should be devolved without devolving the responsibility for broadcasting as a whole to the National Assembly.
But the Welsh Assembly Government does have a strategic role in increasing the numbers of Welsh speakers, potential audiences for S4C.
5 November 2007