The Government has withdrawn plans to hand over £14m to Channel 4 to help the broadcaster fund its switchover to digital. It is now expected to reveal its plans for the future of public service broadcasting early next year.
Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has outlined in a written statement to parliament today (November 26), that in the period since the funding notification was made, the debate on the future of public service broadcasting in the UK has “moved on significantly”.
He adds that the structural challenges that traditional commercially-funded public service broadcasters face have been exacerbated by current cyclical conditions.
“The Government has therefore brought forward its timeline for decisions and is now committed to take a more comprehensive view on the future institutional and financial framework of public service broadcasting, including the future of Channel 4, early in 2009,” he says.
Last year, the Government announced that it would divert £14m of the BBC licence fee to Channel 4. The European Commission has been investigating whether the proposal is a potential breach of state aid rules.
In response to Burnham’s statement, a Channel 4 spokesman says: “Channel 4 supports the decision to withdraw this proposal. As the Government makes clear in its statement, broader decisions about the future framework of public service broadcasting will be made early in 2009 as part of its Digital Britain review.
“In light of the Government’s accelerated timetable, it makes sense to seek any necessary approvals from the Commission for a single, all encompassing solution to support the UK’s public service broadcasting system, rather than a series of small-scale proposals.”