Channel 4 executives warn of privatization risks
The bosses of Channel 4 have warned that there could be “a real risk” to some of its programs if it were privatized.
The government is considering whether to privatize the channel, now financed by advertisements but owned by the state.
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said: “We need to make sure that the media landscape is strengthened, not made worse, by any changes to the channel.”
The government is expected to announce a review of the “future landscape of public service broadcasting” in the near future.
In releasing Channel 4’s annual report on Tuesday, executives trumpeted the success of shows like The Great British Bake Off, It’s A Sin and Grayson’s Art Club as well as a better-than-expected £ 74million surplus despite the pandemic .
A private Channel 4 could prioritize profit over public service, its bosses have warned.
Programming director Ian Katz cited the “depth level” of the news as some of the program likely to be under pressure, as well as programs featuring under-represented voices.
He also mentioned shows like The Write Offs by Sandi Toksvig, on adult literacy; We Are Lady Parts, a sitcom about a Muslim female punk group; and Steph’s Packed Lunch, which gives “an investment in appropriate regional representation live in the program every day”.
“And you just need to think about some of the scripted TV shows we’ve been doing recently,” he said.
“It’s a Sin is a shining example because it’s a show that was turned down by all broadcasters before we produced it. It just wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been there, and I think there are quite a few shows in our schedule of this ilk. “
He added, “These are all shows that emerge because everyone on the channel is imbued with public service ethics, and that’s the kind of TV they try to do every day, and I think there’s a real risk if you lose that, that you lose a lot of that kind of programming. “
Mahon told reporters: “We always have to be careful of anything that could be irreversible and that could possibly damage some of these things that we do for the industry and that we do for the UK.”
She highlighted Channel 4’s decision to move staff to Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol, revealing that Channel 4 News will be co-hosted from Leeds from September 6.
“Starting to have the news hosted several nights a week from outside London – co-hosted – is a big difference,” she said.
“No other national broadcaster does this. It has been an important part of our program and I think we want this to continue. You might wonder if this would be done under different structures.”
“Appropriate ownership model”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told MPs last month that a committee is looking into the future of Channel 4 to consider “how best to make it sustainable in the future, and does that necessarily mean that it continues to belong to the state? “
He explained, “The scale and pace of the evolution of the broadcasting market continues at a steady pace and it is important when we look at the broadcasting landscape that we look at the appropriate ownership model for Channel. 4. “
On Tuesday, Katz also said programming budgets rebounded after being cut at the start of the Covid pandemic.
“Dramatic spending this year is already considerably higher than last year and will again be significantly higher next year,” he said.