DCMS on Channel 4’s regional impact

Ritchie Cogan
Ritchie Cogan 6th July 2017

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  1. Broadcasting in the UK has a crucial role to play in making us aware of what is happening in the world and the UK’s position internationally. There is extensive evidence that engagement with the wider world leads to a more tolerant society which is able to do business with the wider world.
  2. IBT members’ concern is with content which engages and informs us about the wider world, therefore we limit our comments in this submission to how the policy proposals under consideration will impact of the delivery of such content.
  3. IBT’s research demonstrates that content on television is a dominant source of information about the world outside the UK and that for the past 35 years Channel 4 has played an important role in delivering such content which takes us beyond news headlines and engages us with the lives of people in other countries.
  4. As many recent events have shown, our lives have the potential to be profoundly influenced by events and processes at the international level, and not just the local, regional or national levels. Therefore it is crucial that any requirements on Channel 4 to increase its impact in the nations and regions of the UK are balanced with a need to ensure audiences remain fully engaged with events in the wider world.
  5. IBT’s primary concern is that C4C should be able to continue to deliver its remit with integrity and invest its surplus in public service content instead of it being diverted by infrastructure projects, such relocating to a base outside London. IBT does not want C4C’s existing operating model to be undermined by any change which might weaken its ability or incentive to provide high quality content which engages us with the wider world.
  6. IBT considers that the issue of where Channel 4’s offices are based is a matter for the Channel 4 board and not a matter for government. Channel 4 needs to be able to fulfil its creative vision by being based in the best place to do so and IBT considers that London is the best location for Channel to be based because it is the centre of the creative industries in the UK. Additionally, a move out of London wouldn’t guarantee any extra commissioning for independent production companies outside the South East, which seems to be the Government’s objective, and it wouldn’t guarantee any greater representation of the regions of England and the Nations of the UK on screen.
  7. If Channel 4’s quotas for out of London original productions are increased, this will limit Channel 4’s ability to commission the best ideas and deliver its creative vision. Additional regulatory conditions will also impose more compliance requirements on Channel which will divert funds away from production. It is IBT’s view increased nations and out of London quotas will overburden Channel 4 and undermine its ability to deliver its existing remit. Therefore IBT opposes the proposals in this consultation to increase Channel 4’s nations and English regions quotas.
  8. IBT considers that the Indie Growth Fund has proved to be a success. It has provided an alternative source of income for C4C and support for small and medium-sized independent production companies. Therefore IBT would not, in principle, be opposed to Channel 4 taking larger stakes in production companies in excess of 25% as long as these were under 49%.
  9. IBT believes that if the government decides to increase Channel 4’s out of London or nations quotas, that this policy should also apply to the commercial PSBs otherwise it will put Channel 4 at a commercial disadvantage.

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