Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: C4 Has Strongest Case for the Public's Pounds 300m

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: C4 Has Strongest Case for the Public's Pounds 300m

Article excerpt

Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan is about to play the first card in a dramatic poker game - one with a pot of about pounds 300m a year.

The former marketing man will start revealing his cards in the next couple of weeks as he responds to the latest stage of Ofcom's public-service broadcasting review. The centrepiece of his case will be a plea that it should be Channel 4, not any Tom, Dick or Harry from the broadcasting world, that should get its hands on the cash going to the proposed public-service publisher (PSP).

Hats off to Duncan for coming up with a top-quality wheeze that goes with the grain of Ofcom thinking. In its present form, the PSP initiative is a well-meaning but flawed idea. Why should ITV be given pounds 300m a year of public money to make the sort of programmes it should already be making and can afford on its own? Why should a non-broadcaster receive pounds 300m of public money without a guarantee that such programmes will be properly broadcast in prime time?

The Channel 4 case is cunning - if opportunistic. It goes like this: Channel 4 is, so far, the only unloved orphan of the digital age. Something has either been done, or is about to be done, to help all the other terrestrial broadcasters. ITV has already had its regional obligations reduced and it can reasonably look forward to pounds 100m or so a year coming off its licence-fee payments. The BBC is assured of a new 10-year Royal Charter funded by a universal licence fee set at an adequate, if not over-generous, level. Five has been let off even its minimal existing obligations.

Where is there any sign of anything being done for poor old Channel 4 - assuming, of course, that anything needs to be done for a channel that will be highly profitable this year? Channel 4 insists, however, that the pounds 100m figure is more than a little optimistic.

The problem is that everywhere you look at the moment there are broadcasters going down in the penalty area in the hope of persuading the referee they deserve a spot-kick. Some need to be shown a yellow card or two for diving.

We will see whether the Channel 4 numbers add up when they're finally published. The claim is that within the next three or four years, the channel will have a deficit of more than pounds 50m, and that within six years, this will have risen to pounds 100m. …

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