Channel 4 cautious but positive over BBC practical partnership

Channel 4 has cautiously welcomed BBC proposals to create “practical partnerships” to avoid “top-slicing” the licence fee by sharing its expertise with rival broadcasters although chief executive Andy Duncan (pictured) has warned that proposals “need to be more than warm words”.

In its submission to Ofcom’s second public service broadcasting review, the BBC questioned suggestions that the licence fee should be top-sliced, with money given to other broadcasters including Channel 4 to support PSB in a digital age.

It offers a number of “initial ideas” of potential partnerships with other PSBs, such as sharing its “knowledge and expertise” in digital production, making some of its regional news material available to other news outlets and sharing “scientific know-how” from its research and development arm, which has worked on the launches of both Freeview and Freesat.

Channel 4 has consistently argued for extra funding for its public service remit as it loses its “gifted” analogue spectrum in the run-up to digital switchover in 2012. The broadcaster says it will “study” the BBC’s proposals.

Duncan adds: “Leaving it to the BBC alone to supply publicly valuable programmes would go against public opinion and diminish creative standards.

“Channel 4 has consistently argued it represents the best means of securing meaningful public service competition to the BBC and our submission reinforces that view.”

He says that the commercial TV market “cannot guarantee” adequate levels of public service competition to the BBC without some continuing form of intervention.

“This support is needed urgently,” he says. “Deep structural changes in media are affecting TV advertising; the market is forecast to be down 2% this year and there is significant cost inflation.”

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