Channel 4 “more honest” about commissioning slump & “never asked for” in-house production powers

Ian Katz

Channel 4 has “perhaps been a bit more honest” about the commissioning slowdown than other UK broadcasters, CCO Ian Katz has said at Edinburgh TV Festival.

His comments came in a week of sessions in which other UK commissioners, such as Sky and ITV, said that they had no plans to cut spending despite the economic downturn.

“I think that’s led to a slight perception that the picture at Channel 4 has been much more dramatic than elsewhere,” said Katz.

“I’ve read an awful lot in the last few months about shows that we’ve [been reported as having] cancelled because of the financial position that had absolutely nothing to do with that.”

Katz said that “every commercial broadcaster has been affected by the advertising revenue slump” and, discussing the current global situation, explained: “We’ve seen the impacts of the strike; we’ve seen the streamers pulling billions out of their budgets in numbers that dwarf the cuts that have been made in this country.”

The Channel 4 exec said that what the international industry may be now facing is “a more significant reset moment, in the scale of production globally,” due to a loss of confidence from Wall Street in the streaming model.

“We never asked for this”

Katz said that Channel 4 will return to commissioning a greater volume of programming later in the year “as soon as the ad revenue starts to come through” but that the slowdown was “critical” to maintain the sustainability of the broadcaster at this time.

The exec also acknowledged the indies that “really came out and battled for us during the privatisation debate” – plans which the UK government ultimately shelved – only to see the broadcaster granted in-house production powers, putting their commissions at risk.

“The reality is, we never asked for this,” said Katz. “All we have done since the government said they wanted to make it possible for us to produce was to keep saying again and again… we don’t want to do anything that is potentially damaging to the sector – and we won’t.

“I can guarantee you; we are not going to be doing anything anytime soon that puts a significant dent in the spend that we make with the sector.”

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