The Government has announced plans to review the ownership model and remit of Channel 4 and the regulation of video-on-demand services as part of its wider strategic review into the UK’s Public Service Broadcasting system.

The future of Channel 4
At present Channel 4 is entirely commercially funded, but it has been publicly-owned since it began broadcasting in 1982.

The Government has cited that the ‘fast-changing media environment, increasing competition and changing audience habits pose imminent challenges and that moving Channel 4 into private ownership and changing its remit could help secure its future as a successful and sustainable public service broadcaster.’

Responding to the announcement, Pact CEO John McVay commented: “Channel 4 plays a critical role in the UK’s broadcasting ecology as a publisher/broadcaster which has invested in hundreds of independent production companies over the nearly 40 years of its existence, enabling and improving access, skills, international activity and diversity.

“The channel is a thriving dynamic and successful public service broadcaster and a catalyst for generations of entrepreneurs. The Government’s plans to sell off Channel 4 will damage small businesses across the UK at a time when they are recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding their businesses. The current Government’s thesis that bigger is always better is an archaic concept from an analogue past.

“Pact is very concerned about the Government’s proposal for the future of Channel 4, as their profits are reinvested in hundreds of British companies who not only make high quality, diverse programmes for the British public, but exploit their IP around the globe taking those programmes to international audiences and bringing money back to the UK economy.

“This proposal will damage British SMEs at a time when we should be focussing on building back better after the pandemic.”

Independent analysis suggests that Channel 4 is in strong financial health having come through the uncertainty of the pandemic with a financial surplus – demonstrating the resilience and flexibility of the current model. We have no reason to believe that the current ownership model and structure will not be sustainable in the future.

Pact will be responding to all the reviews published by Government over the summer and is ready to fully support Channel 4’s efforts in maintaining its current model as a publisher broadcaster.

Video-On-Demand and wider review
The Government will also be considering whether new rules are needed to protect viewers of video-on-demand services – such as changes to age ratings and addressing impartiality and accuracy rules for documentaries and news content – alongside measures to level the playing field so public service broadcasters can compete with international rivals.

Any legislative changes would be outlined under a white paper due in the Autumn. The white paper would consider the future of the country’s broadcasting landscape ‘with the ultimate aim of making sure it serves listeners and viewers on all platforms and across the UK’. It is also understood to set out proposals on how to make sure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility or “prominence” on different online platforms, and ensure viewers can continue to find and access original and high-quality British content.

Source: Pact

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By Expat