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Channel 4 facing privatisation?…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, I'm a man and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello from Countdown you Big Brother to It's a Sin Channel 4 has long been a fixture on the Gogglebox but could the channel the whole generation has grown up with be about to change this morning the government announce another consultation into Weather Channel 4 should be privatised so would that mean an influx of cash to compete with the streaming Giants or a change of Focus perhaps less unreported more naked attraction and would flogging our third biggest broadcaster bringing as much cash as the government expect.

Would you want me to discuss? This is Alex Mahon chief executive of Channel 4 and Chris Curtis editor-in-chief broadcast at also with me today Danielle Lux managing director of CPL Productions Daniel just give us a sense cos I know you got a huge breasts.

Productions give us a sense of the shows you got an hour at the moment well.

We are we just finished life and rhymes which was our entertainment show on Sky Arts we are in Action on married at first sight introduction on you are what you eat League of Their Own there's something about movies and beat poetry show which you just described as entertainment which is interesting in itself and more on that later at Derek McLean is also with us as well managing director of Bandicoot TV now.

You've recovered company Behind the Mask singer and more recently the masked Dancer for anyone who hasn't seen the masked singer and I must say once it's been seen it cannot be unseen.

What is the elevator pitch the elevator pitch for that so is literally your favourite celebrities in Disguise singing songs and the audience and a celebrity panel of.

Just trying to work out who is Behind the Mask and lots of squirrel costumes as well.

Don't forget the scary costumes lots of children's favourites.

I think it's haunted me forever since I've seen it talk about the big news from today on Channel 4 and Alex it is now clear you are going to be spending the next month's talking about the future of Channel 4 and briefing Minister's so how did you feel when that news was announced when you realise that is now going to be reality of your life without being in the news and we like thinking about how we can change.

So that's not always a bad thing but I guess the sort of questions are about what would that mean and what would it mean to Britain what would it mean to the British Public Corona what would it mean to the UK's creative economy? You know you have on today and lots of the people that we work with and I lost.

That we for the advertising money that we get into and you know we're all about making small businesses successful across the UK so I think aside from Batman about being on the front pages.

You know my focus is on thinking about what the questions.

We need to ask to make sure any changes are made in a really considered fashion and you're definitely logical and make sense in respect of the data and how you work now then before we have an intricate conversation about how Channel 4 might look in the future.

How does it work now because I think a lot of people think you cost the taxpayer money but actually you don't you don't get money from the government or from the licence fee.

It's A Very British things right.

You know it's quite unique it's quite peculiar and that's early now.

That's particularly British right.

We were to actually set up by the government we're going to hit 39 this year, so I seem to be 40 with constantly reinventing myself by the way we work.

Off the taxpayer anything at all.

We take money commercially from advertisers.

We don't make a profit.

We take all that money about a billion pounds of revenue a year and we recycle it in small and medium businesses across the UK we spend our money about 50% of it outside of London and about 50% in London that's a big Focus cross making sure which spread across the UK on a creative production companies.

They make programs for us that we put on there and I think that's really important owned by the public with all the public decisions.

We try to make her about the public and technically of course the government parliament of the day represent the public so they get to make decisions about you.

Look forward to discussing change you do sound a bit just in your town like your kind of justifying the status Quo the way you could have just rolled out.

What channel 4 does you don't see any need to change.

Do you like I really do need to change.

I think we've changed.

Over the past years the three years ago this whole organisation within London and now only a couple of years after making decisions.

We've got big offices in Leeds and Manchester and Glasgow spending 50% of that money outside of London and we've got almost 300 people employed outside of London so we are changing all the time we've changed because now a lot of arguing is on digital.

You know all for which is our streaming service is absolutely Focus 80% of young people in the UK are registered on it, so we are changing I always believe you should change it and that's partly what setup for I just think when you think about changing the ownership.

You need to think about what would be lost to the media landscape.

What will be lost that's distinctive or valuable and made those changes would the UK public have a kind of things they were going from privatisation, but would they have things that might make the media landscape?

Morality or creative innovation and we've got to look at the pros and cons of also how it would work, so I'm just wondering what the options for the future might be could be listed on the stock market so we could buy shares in it like British Gas when that was privatised or are we talking about the government putting it up for auction and selling it to the highest bidder and have you got any idea what their preference might be but what I would say is and you know I've rung commercial private businesses and I from that list of businesses what I would say is when you're on a profit and for return to shareholders you tend to have a different set of priorities.

It's not to say that was a wrong.

It's just that our priorities are about public purpose purpose above prophet.

Just because you tend to that doesn't mean does it but the remake of Channel 4 couldn't be ring-fenced.

It doesn't mean that.

The culture secretary is wrong when he says that this could be a big cash injection privatisation it could be that somebody property Mogul comes along and benefits Channel 4 with millions of pounds more money than you get the moment.

I haven't seen any deep pocketed Media moguls come along and benefit public service institutions in UK is not to say that they don't exist is also true to say that we already spending much more and programming as a percentage of revenues than any other commercial competitor.

Isn't it snowing in Channel 5 on programming public service broadcast and when you are focused on public service.

Do you do things slightly differently your channel for a great job of appealing to older people?

The public remake that it's meant for Phil but it's a very very different to what we do in the Paralympics on shows like it's a sin.

We focused on things like the write-offs about adult illiteracy the school that tried to end racism we've got really really in-depth investigative and interrogated news on every app in recent years have been things like Bake-Off and TaskMaster which were from other networks.

I mean how distinctive is that really to take something that was somewhere else and put it in your schedule arguably the new innovative ideas a new tablet which is the thing Channel 4 should be supporting of that slot punk rock band.

That's on at the moment.

There's a huge range of them.

Joe Lycett Hollyoaks that's on everyday.

There's a huge Range and we are really purpose on those new in a bit of shows and I know that produces Will Go On

That we're one of the very few places you can get away new ideas and getaway things that are known in the trade as paper format shows that have never been on anywhere else.

That's really really doing our business and it also means that produces can export them around the world and we play a very important role and doing that everything that I understood retard at the moment was getting advertising revenue so explain why you had such a strong Year last year your financial results came out.

Obviously you may know that was pandemic last year and we thought would be dreadful for a while but in the end.

It was ok.

We ended up only about 5% down and that was partly because we did really well competitively so you know when the time we had to cut lots of programming and lots of things can be made and we had to cut some course but we didn't think that no one else did we decided to put money back into make it really reactive for them things that.

Affected how we felt as a nation at that time.

We may be chosen like Jamie Oliver cooking from home.

That's how we all felt right.

We're all stuck at home having to cook every night.


Perry doing art from Holman Kirstie Allsopp crafting from home and we had you know all these fast turnaround shows are naturally reflected.

How we felt as a nation and we will try to home with nothing to do watching and that helped us competitively for the budget was cut some of your programs.

That's partly what the surplus is the budget was absolutely we save costs and also we couldn't make lots of restrictions that we couldn't make shows in mind but they were people involved in the Productions of those shows that got cut that have been at home and haven't had government support because they fall in between the stalls because they're freelance in that context was it right of you to accept a pay rise well as possible, so we did things like you know we made bake off in a bubble.

We like send.

Make-up away for 6 weeks to sequester a hotel to make the show so we made as many things as week and we also made lots and lots of shows a little companies and small companies in the nations and regions so much money back into the sector and sweet of you.

Having more money personally when other people have really been struggling in the collection sector.

It's not a good look right to find that.

It was really really difficult for freelancers and you know Focus trust was also about how we contribute money to the freelancers charity and what we could do to help them and our Focus has been on.

How do we get as many of them back as possible and up the program and budget which is what we announced yesterday about putting more money and Chris Curtis broadcast this is the fifth time that there has been a government consultation into channel for both Labour and Tory governments have had a go at this.

Why do you think they think now might be the right time to sell what the market does change that that's true.

2015 16 the last attempt there wasn't actually a formal consultation it dragged on for goodness 18 months or more that was 5 years ago 6 years the market has changed the speed of the streaming revolutions only accelerated, but it's it's also the case that the British PSB isn't Channel 4 at the forefront there with the market.

So it's not as though everything surrounding these organisations.

Is is all up in the air and there are preserved in Aspic so I think he thinks there's this stuff at the market is changed.

There's what the dcms would say he is their concerns about the long-term sustainability of Channel 4 and that's something that I suspect electric and then there's the fact that you know either ideologically the government may hold the view that having a second state-owned broadcast.

Not been single and unnecessary distraction and the fact that can see the blue privatising asset-light Channel 4 would be a boost to the Treasury there in the grand scheme level of national debt at the moment the proceeds.

You might make from buying Channel 4 it say something in a drop in the ocean.

So that that would be there their rational I suspect I mean is there a sense that the price might be less in the future.

You know sell it now because it might be worth less you think that's the calculation the value of Channel 4 is a question I suspect the value of Channel 4 witches what you could get on the open market for her from a trade bitter.

Let's say will be directly linked to the constraints that came with any purchase the government's made it clear that they expect in one form of her to sort of preserve c Fort PSB remit but it is the case that the stronger the remix the letter tracked.

Four would be to a commercial a buyer because they would be obliged to do many of the things that channel 4 does at the moment which you know a for-profit or section wouldn't do that Alex mentioned in a recent series about adult literacy.

I can't imagine that will be top of the list of other sure play commercial operator and Channel 4 news and the dispatches stranded all kinds of different types of programming tool that was protected.

I mean the government haven't announced anything like this.


They're only just beginning with consultation same conclusion.

They were saying we will ring pencil.

They think will make sure we still do dispatches unreported world and they sort of things do you think I would be any buyers for Channel 4? Is it exist now and if so who look I think it's inconceivable that if the government auctions off slot number for in British television that companies wouldn't take a look we won.

Isn't clear previously it would have been Unthinkable that one of the big existing British players with by Channel 4 First of monopolistic reasons that who knows maybe that the speed of the global Giants progress with me.

That's something that will be more palatable to regulators and there would be lots of companies interested in having a look like I think it's clear and I think dcms would accept that there's almost like a sliding scale in the stronger the remit the more the more preserve Channel 4 remit is the less money you're likely to realise bye-bye selling it and that's up the judgement call for them to make the other thing.

I think it's worth saying is that if your commercial operator and you want to buy Channel 4 you are likely I suspect to want to produce your own programming if you look at what ITV has done in the last 10.

It's gone from being Cooper advertising to advertising and production very successfully very clever strategy Channel 4 whole Ethos is based around that doesn't produce its own programmes can support the UK production sector and help to get a surplus Miss You When production was suffering yes, also been a huge contributor to British television production is a UK PLC success story over the last 20-years.

That's undeniable Channel 4 has played a significant role in that and if a new owner Channel 4.

I don't know mate 50% of its programs in house at home that IP then that would be money that is lost indigenous British producers that we've seen all of these factors need to be considered when making decisions about the Future mod.

Ownership of Channel 4 Alex another thing that the government has announced a day is that Ofcom might start regulating the streaming Giants as well so Netflix Amazon etc.

Do you want to take the opportunity to say a massive? Thank you to Oliver dowden for that one.

I think if you put more regulation on globaltech behemoth as I come in this country absolutely a massive.

Thank you because I think about the impact on the British pound but you know it's all very well asking questions Channel 4 but remember in the last study the UK psvs made 32000 of UK content a year or the UK and the global strimmers made 182 hours of UK content.

You've got a think about what the British Public actually want and last the British Public really really rely on the PS not only because we played the role of informing them and frankly stopping people dying by providing news information which people really really.

But also by the entertainment and frankly the distraction in the board and we all felt so we are wanted by the public and there are increasing levels of trust in US talking payment shall we talk to some programme makers Derek McLean you run a production company Bandicoot which is part of the organ and group.

What do you make it all this by the way the Channel 4 scenario first of all.

I think it's a really challenging one.

I can't I mean I know Alexa translate.

I buy can't help but from a personal level wonder whether the government do this lately as a punishment beating 484 because they serve ideologically don't fit with with there any thoughts that it is something.

I hope does not come to pass.

I think the point the Chris made and Alex Made very clearly is the UK economy benefits hugely from Channel 4 current status because we as independent production companies in the UK produce the content for them.

Money flows directly into UK companies and the UK Exchequer as a result if it's purchased by you know an overseas company that is over Caesar of Thornhill company.

You know the likelihood is a large part of that may go if they do move content in housing.

I think that you're from the government's point of view top selling UK PLC I think they really need to answer that question about how do we protect as a small Indies in that scenario as mentioned earlier to keep more of your IP when you sell to channel for the valuable intellectual property benefits of the taxpayer.

Is it and we would be better for Channel 4 to own that and then the taxpayer owns it well.

I think was over it depends on which network your with which Channel 4 mean.

Obviously you know they are structured differently.

I think there's an argument for that and I think we would have to look at times of trade change sometime ago to give us the freedom to do that which makes the UK such a brilliant place to make.

I think it would be bad news to to go back and reverse that I think the only thing you know Channel 4 is a brilliant.

You know it sounds like a kite Mark Around the World in terms of quality and overall picture ensure that channel for you.

No have had produced a piloted that means something else where and I think that's that's goes to the High benchmark.

The quality of shows are made by Channel 4 and very networks around the world have their own of the status Quo as well.

You're making a lot of shows for Channel 4 have done in the past.

You do pretty well out of the current situation attachment to it in the broadcast the ecology.

It's not it's stands exactly as a kite Mark and lots of people's comments and the thing for ulcers be Indies is the channel for is often the place that you see your first break.

They are the place that often back new Talent ID

But then become mainstream and yes of course every business needs to move with the times and keep up with things as they change but the thing is most vital is being certain of the effect that such a sale might have and affecting far more than simply what the viewer sees immediately on screen fold commercial ecology around Channel 4 one of the things.

I've been watching on the screen recently over on ITV admittedly is the masked dancer Spider-Man fever dream that keeps repeating on me.

It wasn't your idea if something you found in Korea is that right and then pitch it to the UK broadcasters tell us the story the masked singer is a game format.

So it's a it was a show that originated and career around 2005/2006 seem rather was a huge success in career.

You know a mass of smash.

The for myself as actually done unusual journey.

We pride ourselves in the UK as being format generators and format exporters the masked singer has actually travel around about the opposite way it started in Korea Thailand an amazing version with unbelievably ocular costumes which is what caught our eye and then actually fox in the US commit before it came to the UK so unusually.

It's actually travelled the world in the opposite direction must answer is a step for a step forward from that.

I don't want to call a spin-off think that that would undermine at base is the familiar mass brand but done differently and we really excited that we had the opportunity to try something different under that guys, but you did go taking the masked singer around didn't for a while and nobody wanted it really is that it's it's amazing for a massive success on a fox in the US actor and appetite for the challenge.

When we picked this you know we were going in the saying you know we've got this show.

It's really different is celebrities, but they're singing but they're in Disguise and the first thing people would say as I'm not another talent show not another singing show which had so many of those yeah, we don't need anymore and we were paying as to say it's not a town show it's a guessing game you have to understand.

It's completely different you know concept because it doesn't matter with other any good at singing and they're not competing against each other in that way as for the audience to guess who they are and it first.

I think people really struggle to capture that and then eventually you know cottoned on and that's where the that's why suddenly the changed and so guessing game is now part of an entertainment Jonah aware as perhaps people.

Just saw shiny floor talent shows and then I'm sorry but you're series life and rhymes recently won a BAFTA up against the masked singer entertainment category as I mentioned earlier.

That's a poetry show.

It's Quite Bitter Sweet I'm actually quite a lot of the poetry is a real punch in the gut emotionally I wouldn't necessarily think of it as an entertainment show do you think the genre is really broading out now? I don't think you get lots of Bittersweet moments in some of those competition shows where people lose some to show at some contest or they talk about the trials that they've gone through to get an emotional are absolutely right at the centre of their shiny forms shows as well.

I think that's entertainment moving with the Times can't limit itself to simply two slots on Saturday night in the studio matches show has completely United nation and has absolutely a place that but where factual entertainment is actually really providing a loss of entertainment for the viewer entertainment ideas come from everywhere and really where they come from is something joyful and passionate that somebody believes.

Wants to perform and that's where you talk about it as it sounds so Oxbridge it's spoken word it is the songs on Terry show but without music so there's nothing clarified its experience and it's joyful and beautiful Chris Curtis from broadcast.

What do you think those two shows tell us about where entertainment is at the moment? I'm guessing that does seem to be the next big frontier of Saturday night telly now commissioners rush to see what else might be one or two are they getting games on there at the moment look there fun ones.

There's definitely a turn of the wheel and entertainment.

There's not much cruelty anymore in the entertainer space.

We don't really want to see after you everyone has just had people having their dreams dashed on a Saturday night and I think that's something that is bringing these.

Together at the moment and I think gradually the sector me is being a little bit risky a little bit bolder at trying a few new things out not because I can't think there's an acceptance now that the the numbers that the really big beasts do in the shape of strictly or used to do in the shape of X Factor that say it kind of feels like a little bit and no one really thinks that there's going to be a new entertainment form of the does 10 million viewers make that little defeat is but given that sort of context.

I think people are broadcasters conditioners a happier to try a few things out.

They might not have quite the last budget and some of those old shows and see what they can achieve with newer quirky ideas a little move in the right direction.

I suggested maybe a little bit on your territory Alex mate.

I'm from Channel 4 you know Christians called both these shows bold and I kind of other ones on Sky Arts

That's what you're doing is very surprised.

It shows you like on Channel 4 Alex I would love to have either of them.

They're absolutely brilliant.

Does it mean you have to be boulder though, if I didn't go out to being as Bold as it is for the UK public is not a bad thing to do something unheard and I think what we do about sometimes challenging sometimes bringing different perspective quite a lot about diversity of thought you know that's an important thing when we have served at to the Radio 4 audience today, but that is all the time.

We have thank you to all my guests Alex Mae hunt from Channel 4 Daniel Lux from CPL Productions Chris Curtis editor-in-chief of broadcast and Sarah MacLean

Thanks for listening music Radio podcasts.

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Friday, 2 July 2021
Nicholas Anderson

1:17 PM

The only surprising thing about the proposed privatisation of Channel 4 is that it hasn't been done before. There is no reason that providing their remit is the same as being state owned there is no reason why as a commercial broadcaster they should not be privatised.

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Nicholas Anderson's 147 posts GB flag

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