Channel 4 ‘energised and refocused’ after privatisation battle

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A Channel 4 boss has said the broadcaster is “energised and refocused” on its core values, including representing the whole of the UK in its content, following the end of a privatisation battle with the Government.

Earlier this year, former culture secretary Michelle Donelan confirmed plans to sell off the broadcaster had been scrapped and said Channel 4 will now be able to make and own some of its own content.

While delivering a keynote speech at the Wales Screen Summit on Wednesday, the broadcaster’s chief content officer Ian Katz thanked those within the media industry who campaigned against the selling of, what he described as, “a crown jewel of British culture”.

Cabinet meeting
Former culture secretary Michelle Donelan (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Above all, I think it forced us to think hard, perhaps harder than at any time in the channel’s 40-year history, about what we’re actually for”, he said.

“What we bring to the British broadcasting landscape that is special and how we can deliver more of it in future.

“The privatisation debate has left us energised and refocused. Refocused on core aspects of our remit such as holding a flame to the feet of the powerful, exploring the issues and questions that others avoid, finding and promoting new talent and ideas, amplifying unheard voices and, of course, generally causing trouble.”

Mr Katz hailed the channel’s success at the Bafta TV Awards on Sunday where it won nine gongs, noting this was the broadcaster’s best result in 22 years.

But he added that it was the type of shows recognised he was most proud of, highlighting comedian Joe Lycett’s programme which featured a stunt in which he threatened to destroy £10,000 of his own money unless David Beckham pulled out of his deal with World Cup host country Qatar to bring attention to its stance on homosexuality.

Channel 4’s chief content officer Ian Katz (Wales Screen Summit/PA)

Mr Katz added: “If there is one mission to which we want to rededicate ourselves as we emerge from the shadow of privatisation, it is the mission to be truly representative of the whole UK.2

In his speech, he also recognised the channel’s ability to make and own some of its own content under the new proposals from the Government has caused “uncertainty and concern”.

Unlike other broadcasters, everything the channel currently airs is commissioned from external production companies.

The announcement prompted Pact, the trade body for the independent sector, to warn the move could have “the same damaging outcome” on its members as privatisation if “effective protections” are not put in place.

Addressing the issue, Mr Katz said: “You should know that the freedom to make our own programmes was not something we asked for and we’re determined to ensure that any changes made as a result of the Government’s proposed changes will not have unintended consequences for the industry.”

He also announced a number of new commissions including a new documentary from Cardiff Productions which will see Paralympian and presenter Ade Adepitan living for a week in a “whites-only” community in South Africa.

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