The UK broadcasting sector has long been a topic which I have held a real interest in. Indeed, I am the Vice Chair of the BBC and ITV All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), and I have also been an active member of the Channel 4 APPG. These groups bring together Members of both Houses, working unpaid, to monitor topics of interest and discuss related Government policies.
I would like to reassure you of the Government's commitment to the success and sustainability of the UK’s public broadcasting system, of which Channel 4 is an integral part.
Channel 4 has been hugely successful in delivering the aims set out at its creation in 1982, including: supporting the UK independent production sector; delivering diverse and risk-taking content; and contributing to the wider public goals of public service broadcasting.
As you might be aware, Channel 4 is entirely commercially funded, but has been publicly owned since it began broadcasting. It was set up in this way principally to provide greater choice.
The previous Culture Secretary, after public consultation, found that Government ownership was holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon. As such, the Government confirmed that a change of ownership would offer Channel 4 the freedom to continue its success as a public service broadcaster long into the future.
However, the new Culture Secretary has concluded her business case review and instead found that reforms should be implemented to help Channel 4 grow and better compete in the age of streaming giants. This follows discussions between the Government, Channel 4 and the independent productions sector.
I understand these plans include allowing Channel 4 the flexibility to make some of its own content and a new legal duty to promote long-term sustainability, whilst introducing protections to ensure they continue to be an incubator for the independent production sector. As part of this package, Channel 4 will now commit to doubling its planned number of new roles outside London and doubling its financial investment in skills.
I welcome this announcement and am glad that Channel 4 will remain in public ownership but with greater commercial flexibility.
Of particular importance for Fylde is the increased investment in skills and jobs across the UK that this will bring and I am reassured that Channel 4’s regional programme making quotas will remain unaffected. They will remain at 35 per cent of hours of programmes and 35 per cent of its spend outside London per calendar year, and 9 per cent hours of programmes and 9 per cent of its spend outside England per calendar year.
Many of these reforms will be introduced in the forthcoming Media Bill. The draft Bill was published in March 2023 and included measures which will give Channel 4 a new legal duty to consider its long-term sustainability alongside the delivery of its public service remit, which will ensure this globally renowned broadcaster can continue to produce high impact, distinctive shows long into the future. Secondary legislation will be introduced to raise the level of Channel 4’s independent production quota, and the Government will continue to work closely with industry to consider additional protections that will safeguard Channel 4’s important role supporting the production sector following these changes.