Channel 4 `May Be Forced to Choose between Ratings and Public Duty'

By Louise Jury and Anthony Barnes | The Independent (London, England), August 24, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Channel 4 `May Be Forced to Choose between Ratings and Public Duty'


Louise Jury and Anthony Barnes, The Independent (London, England)


THE NEW chief executive of Channel 4 warned last night that the channel might have to choose between financial survival and honouring its remit for experiment and minority programming.

Mark Thompson, giving his first public speech as head of the channel, also tried to redefine public service broadcasting, saying he wanted to move from the BBC definition which stressed education. Channel 4's definition should be "an improvised rhythm of experimentation and alternative ideas against the steady drum-beat of information, education and entertainment," Mr Thompson said.

Delivering the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh television festival, he will have alarmed those wanting Channel 4 to honour its original remit for minority programming and radical content. Mr Thompson said, opaquely, that his definition of public service broadcasting was "a cultural catalyst that doesn't just accelerate and strengthen originality within television but which challenges and inspires anyone who comes into contact with it".

On the choice between public service broadcasting and minority programming, he said the draft communications Bill allowed financial consolidation for ITV and Channel 5, but had no specific measures to underpin Channel 4's position.

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Channel 4 `May Be Forced to Choose between Ratings and Public Duty'
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