Iona Jones: My Life In Media

'With Jones such a common surname in Wales, embarrassing moments inevitably arise'
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The Independent Online

Iona Jones, 41, is the new chief executive of S4C, the Welsh language television channel. Born in west Wales, Jones was raised in Cardiff and studied economic and social history at Exeter University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the British Screen Advisory Council, and is married with three children.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

In the early 1980s the media emerged as a positive tool to support cultural and linguistic regeneration. My love of the written and spoken word, and contributing to Wales's growing sense of nationhood, were and remain great motivators.

When you were 15 years, which paper did your family get, and did you read it?

The Western Mail and yes, I read it from cover to cover. The paper's annual, much-anticipated St David's Day essay-writing competition was of particular interest when I was at school.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I watched all the American TV imports - Charlie's Angels, Starsky and Hutch - as well as UK comedy shows such as The Two Ronnies. In pre-S4C days, Welsh-language shows were broadcast across the BBC and ITV and one of my favourites was Ryan a Ronnie, a comedy sketch and music show starring the late Ryan Davies and Ronnie Williams. It was quintessentially Welsh, but had wide-ranging appeal and was a huge hit. Some of their characters were not quite forerunners of Little Britain, but they certainly came close, in particular camp Glanaman housewife Phyllis Doris. Cardiff's local radio station, CBC in those days, had a cult Welsh language Sunday-night music-based show called Cadw Cwmni.

Describe your job

In many ways my role is that of editor-in-chief. The programme service is at the top of my list of priorities - if the service is right, then a lot of other things will fall into place. I'm in the process of redefining S4C's public service proposition, giving prominence to specific genres, with an overall emphasis on entertainment and creative excellence.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

Radio 4.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I scan the press cuttings first thing.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being in a position to facilitate greater creative and commercial opportunities for the independent sector in Wales.

And the worst?

Dealing with complacency.

How do you feel you influence the media?

As well as fulfilling its core remit of providing a comprehensive Welsh language television service, S4C has tremendous potential as a catalyst for reinvigorating the creative community in Wales. It's about empowering creative people, while ensuring contestability and transparency. It's also about building a partnership based on trust - rather than the one-sided, rather patriarchal relationship that existed between broadcaster and independent producer before the new Terms of Trade were introduced.

What's the proudest achievement in your work?

Devising and implementing S4C's new Programme Strategy, with its emphasis on landmark programming, which has led to an 11 per cent year-on-year increase in peak time viewing - which runs counter to the current trend for other terrestrial broadcasters.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

With Jones such a common surname in Wales, embarrassing moments inevitably arise from time to time. On a business trip to London, one hotel tried to book me and former S4C chief exec Huw Jones into the same suite, as they thought we were husband and wife.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I never miss an episode of The Bill. Rugby is also a big draw for me and my family on S4C and other channels. We were firm supporters of Pontypridd RFC and supported the Celtic Warriors but since the demise of the Warriors, we're clubless!

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

It's still The Sunday Times along with Wales on Sunday. I buy Vogue, InStyle, Eve and Livingetc every month.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

S4C has received four Oscar nominations, for two films - Hedd Wyn, the story of poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, killed in the First World War, and love story Solomon a Gaenor, which stars Ioan Gruffudd - and for animations, Famous Fred (adventures of a rock star cat) and The Canterbury Tales. I would love to see an S4C production get another Oscar nomination but win!

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I'd be a florist.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Clive Jones of ITV, a clever, savvy Welshman who's remained true to his roots.

The CV

1986 Starts career as a journalist with BBC Cymru Wales, later becoming editor of the current affairs strand Taro Naw and daily news programme Newyddion, produced by the BBC for S4C.

1995 Joins Welsh language television channel S4C as the director of corporate affairs.

2000 Moves to ITV Wales, where she represented Carlton's regional companies throughout the UK on the Communications Bill and other strategic matters.

2003 Returns to S4C as director of programmes.

2005 Becomes chief executive of S4C.