Channel 4 is ours - let's keep it that way
From Come Dine With Me to Countdown, Gogglebox to Father Ted, Channel 4 has kept us entertained and informed since 1982. Documentaries, like Educating Essex, have shown us new perspectives, while comedies like Peep Show have kept us laughing and given new talents their big break.
This success is linked to Channel 4’s public service broadcasting remit – producing innovative and quality content. Many people do not realise that Channel 4 is publicly owned. It is commercially run which means it funds itself through advertising and doesn’t cost us a penny. In fact, Channel 4 makes £1.1 billion for the British economy each year. Profitable and high quality – what’s not to like?
Wtf is going on?
For the last few years there has been speculation about the privatisation of Channel 4 and in September 2015 the government accidentally leaked plans that seemed to prove that speculation right. In the 2016 Autumn Statement, the government confirmed that other national assets – like the Land Registry – would not be sold off, but failed to say if this was also the case for Channel 4.
However, thanks to campaigners, full privatisation of Channel 4 seems off the agenda for now. We were particularly impressed that they even described Channel 4 as a “precious public asset” that will continue to be “owned by the country”. Let's hope the government learn from this and begin to see all our national assets as exactly that: assets that can support the wider economy and provide high quality services!
Why would we want another Channel 5? The case against privatisation
“Of the £938m revenues we made last year, £600m went into content, and £430m of that into the British creative sector. That, for me, is a fantastic asset for the country." David Abraham, Chief Executive of Channel 4
While there is nothing wrong with commercial channels like Channel 5, Channel 4 offers something unique. Channel 4’s public service mandate means it must be innovative, stimulate public debate, reflect the UK’s cultural diversity, nurture new talent, and champion alternative points of view. This is a big responsibility and has been really successful, making Channel 4 extremely popular with young people and minority audiences. The likes of Channel 5, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about all this, which can be seen in the graph below.
More for Murdoch?
In a world dominated by media moguls, it’s unsurprising that 71% of us believe more should be done to control media ownership. Privatisation could threaten the impartiality of Channel 4 news and programming, reducing investigative journalism to cut costs, as the House of Lords Communications Committee has warned.
Recently, US-based corporations have been encroaching on the UK television sector – with Channel 5 now being owned by Viacom. Although these companies would love to get their hands on Channel 4, this would be bad news for all of us. Channel 4’s Chief Executive, David Abraham admitted that commercial goals would mean less investment in comedy as this is high-risk and less spent on dramas as they are not profit-making. If Channel 4 were to keep up with ITV’s 28% profit margins, this would mean £280 million less per year being spent on its programmes.
Photo used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Chatham House.
Photo used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Matt Kieffer https://www.flickr.com/people/mattkieffer/