Channel 4 makes £5b UK programming pledge

Commercially-funded public service broadcaster Channel 4 says it will invest £5 billion in UK-originated content over the next decade, as long as it gets "fresh investment to support its public service activities."

The broadcaster has been lobbying hard for some form of funding ahead of the publication of UK communications regulator Ofcom’s second review of public service broadcasting and director of television and content Kevin Lygo told a UK conference that, funding permitted, £1.5 billion of the total would be spent on regionally-sourced programming.

From 2010, the broadcaster will ring fence a number of slots in its Cutting Edge and Dispatches factual/current affairs strands as well as others. Lygo said that, ideally, Channel 4 had no intention of trying to amend the Terms of Trade that govern its relationship with independent producers.

UK communications regulator Ofcom has unveiled a range of options for the future of Channel 4 in its second review of public service broadcasting in the UK.

The regulator envisages a broader entity than the current Channel 4, which could have implications for the broadcaster’s relationship with programme makers. Ofcom said any new entity is likely to have a "more diversified approach to rights exploitation." It adds: "This will inevitably raise the issue of… the current Terms of Trade with independent producers."

There has been much of the debate in the UK about how to plug Channel 4’s upcoming funding gap. Ofcom said that it not clear direct public funding represents a stable model either and that a "more ambitious solution" is called for. The regulator noted that BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, and Channel 4 have talked about cooperation. A partnership with another commercial broadcaster is also mooted although Ofcom warns that solution could raise competition concerns, depending upon the shareholder structure of any merged entity.