The move to shave off £55m in programming investment is believed to be the biggest cut made by any of the commercial broadcasters. It has gone down from £220m last year to £165m in the 2009 calendar year.
Five chief executive, Dawn Airey, confirmed the cut back at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch yesterday (24 July). She added that consolidation among broadcasters was necessary to ensure the future health of the industry.
Last week, it emerged that BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 were on the verge of signing a joint venture.
John Smith, chief executive of the BBC’s commercial arm, says the deal is likely to be sealed within weeks and will see it take over parts of Channel 4’s divisions including advertising sales.
The move will help to plug a £150m funding gap Channel 4 will face from 2012.
Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that BSkyB and Channel 4 will merge their advertising sales teams as part of a strategy to protect themselves from the commercial market leader ITV.
However, it is one of many discussions broadcasters and ad sales houses are having about possible tie-ups in anticipation of the relaxation of the Contract Rights Renewal (CRR) mechanism.