Torin Douglas lumps the BBC and Channel 4 together as “major public service broadcasters that are becoming more competitive and facing growing criticism from commercial companies as a result” (MW last week). What Torin fails to mention is the fundamental difference between the two – the small matter of &£3bn of public funding.
Channel 4 is publicly owned but commercially funded. Our licence from the Government allows us to undertake any commercial activity deemed by our board to be compatible with the channel’s broader purpose. Our board’s non-executive members are appointed by Ofcom and its workings are held to be a model for good corporate governance.
I am unaware of an “uproar among [its] commercial rivals” about our cross-platform brand extensions – in fact, the article quotes no one in support of this claim. If such criticisms exist, they are more than a decade out of date (we’ve been doing 4-brand spin-offs in secondary markets such as video, books and magazines since the 1990s), not to say bizarre.
Channel 4 is a commercial company, and criticising a commercial company for acting commercially is like criticising Vladimir Putin for speaking Russian. We have to compete for every pound of revenue so it can be reinvested in public service programmes for the benefit of our viewers.
The question should not be if there are limits to Channel 4’s cross-platform commercial ambitions, but if the pursuit of these ambitions is compromising the channel’s public service delivery. With the launch of More4, the free-to-air relaunch of FilmFour, new broadband services and a record investment in key public service genres (news, current affairs and drama), that is not the case. Our move into radio will advance our ambitions to ensure there is competition for the BBC on every media platform.
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