Reader’s letter: Article missed vital points in proposed sell-off of Channel 4

Thursday 14th July 2022 8:55 am
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The Channel 4 logo, as an art sculpture,  outside the Channel 4 headquarters.
The Channel 4 logo outside the Channel 4 headquarters. (“Big 4 by El Anatsui, Channel 4 HQ, Horseferry Road” by Loz Flowers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. )

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Your article “MP Jesse Norman questions Channel 4 TV sell-off” appears to have missed some vital points in the proposed sell off of Channel 4.

One is the planned closure of ALL broadcast television in Europe by the end of 2034. This is to allow telecoms companies to use the frequencies for 5G and beyond. Satellite TV from the likes of Sky is also likely to close within ten years, with future distribution by broadband only.

Another is the continuing decline of TV commercial revenue as more advertising goes to digital outlets, as The Ross Gazette and other newspapers are all too aware.

The value of C4 right now is estimated to be £1 to £2 billion. It maybe worthless by 2034 unless it and other British broadcasters are allowed to adapt with their audiences.

While a lot is made of Channel 4’s contribution to independent television producers a couple of things have changed in recent years. When Channel 4 opened in 1982 most of production companies were small and innovative. Most are now offshoots of some very large companies -several are multinational.

And it is Channel Five, not 4, that is requisitioning more British content from ‘independent producers’.

The broadcast market place is rapidly changing. The question now is whether the BBC and Channel 4 are too big or too small to cope with the demands of audiences, and over regulation, with the declining revenue that is available. Nearly all of British drama is made with co-funding from overseas producers, for example.

As Ofcom has reported younger audiences are increasingly abandoning mainstream media. In previous decades as younger people grew up yes they did return to watch the likes of BBC tv or ITV- eventually. Now the choice and appeal of subscription services is too great. This is putting our main British TV companies in a weaker position.

The sell off of Channel 4 is unlikely to make any noticeable changes to its Public Service remit. Long term it is more likely to save it.

Jesse Norman says the privatisation of Channel 4 ‘is an unnecessary and unprovoked attempt to address a political non-issue during a time of crisis, at significant cost to the independent UK and film and TV industry’. In the short term he may be right, in the long term he is more than likely wrong.

It has been interference by successive Labour and Conservative governments that put the likes of Netflix and their rivals in a strong position, while weakening and ultimately killing off the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 ‘Project Kangaroo’ - an online TV service which was due to open in 2008. Politicians appear to only think in the short term!

What our MPs, Jesse Norman included, should be doing is bolstering funding for the likes of the BBC’s ‘Midlands Today’ and ITV’s ‘Central News’. These excellent programme have seen massive budget cuts in recent years. It shows! It would really be a public service if Mr Norman could campaign to bolster these programmes.

Graham Hughes, former BBC, and CBC senior journalist & founder producer/presenter at Radio Wyvern.

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