Political Promise

What to do with Channel Four?

In Ju Shardlow on July 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

By Ju Shardlow

Channel 4’s Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) status looks increasingly put-upon as Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt attempts to deregulate commercial television. Channel 4 chairman Lord Terry Burns is expected to defend against allegations of privatization and reveal its high debt levels at a select committee this Wednesday.

Channel 4’s public broadcasting service quotas will inevitably be contrasted with Sky TV. Hunt has tried to distance his department from Rupert Murdoch, whose Sky network produces its own shows, cornering the arts and sports markets. 4’s entertainment agenda is not as high as that of ITV, Hunt claimed on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday. It seems to be stuck in a rut – or as Hunt claimed to The Guardian in January last year- “suffering from a £150m a year funding gap” that it looks unlikely to fill in such a time of arts administration cuts.

Lord Burns may be quizzed by the committee as to the nature of Sky’s sponsorship merger with Channel 4.  MediaCom will sponsor peak-time films on the three Channel 4 channels over the next 12 months according to BSB brand marketing director Robert Tansey. But the channel needs these sponsorships as Hunt’s planned restoration of lottery money to the media can only secure a percentage of its budget. His solution last year was that the channel could take advantage of a 2003 Communications act renegotiation to “make some of its own programmes” and so save money on commissions.  

Channel 4 will of course continue to broadcast, but in the light of the 55 public media bodies altered as part of the Government’s drive to cut costs today- a large cloud looms over the channel’s huge debts of and how to solve them.

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