Ofcom on C4’s Review of its media content duties
- IBT views Channel 4 as an essential element in the broadcasting ecology of the UK – with a cross-subsidy model which provides output which reflects a diverse range of alternative voices, as well as voices from around the world. C4C’s portfolio provides a variety of content which is distinctively different from the other UK public service broadcasters and which appeals to a wide audience.
- IBT focuses its comments in this submission mostly on C4C’s role in inspiring and informing us with content which tells us about the wider world and the UK’s place in the wider world. This is because IBT’s expertise lies in the provision of international content.
- 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. These wider social benefits of international content which reaches a mass audience are IBT’s primary concern.
- IBT agrees with Ofcom’s conclusion that C4C is effectively delivering its media content duties, although we are concerned by the drop in the volume of international content on C4C services since 2010 and encourage Channel 4 to find new ways to engage the audience with international content.
- IBT supports Channel 4 in the delivery of its public service remit, especially in its commitments to support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues, including by providing access to information and views from around the world and by challenging established views and to inspire people to make changes in their lives.
- IBT’s research demonstrates that news and current affairs are the dominant sources of information about the world outside the UK and that, as a result of their focus on wars, conflicts and disasters, UK audiences have a distorted view of the world. This perception needs to be balanced with content which provides us with deeper understanding of the lives of people in other countries and the forces shaping our future.
- During the period of this review C4C 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, although, as noted above, we are concerned that the volume of such content has dropped on C4C platforms.
- We believe that Channel 4 along with its portfolio channels is successful at attracting a broad range of viewers, especially those harder to reach groups: 16-34 year olds and the BAME audience.
- We note there is evidence that the public are looking for more distinctive, original content and believe that Channel 4 and its portfolio channels play an important role in providing such content.
- IBT believes that C4C’s remit to provide content for older children needs to be reconsidered. We are concerned because there is apparent market failure in provision of UK specific content for this age group, however we question whether C4C is able to deliver such content effectively on its existing broadcast platforms.
- We recognise that in order to remain commercially viable and continue to deliver its remit effectively C4C must maintain its reach and impact across its portfolio of services and believe it is currently achieving this. We would want to see C4C to continue with its current operating model.