Channel 4’s chief executive David Abraham has warned the culture select committee that privatisation would harm the broadcaster’s public service programming commitments and independent production companies.
Speaking to the House of Commons culture select committee Abraham said that in order for a privatised Channel 4 to be competitive with its rivals it would need to make around £200m in annual profits.
He warned that this would jeopardise the “fierce independence” of Channel 4’s news and current affairs coverage and would force it to cut back significantly in its work with the 500 independent production companies it partners with.
Abraham, who previously worked in the private sector at companies including UKTV and Discovery, said that a commercial viewpoint adopted through privatisation would see channel 4 “go for more entertainment, more foreign acquisitions and more programmes with international appeal”.
He went on to say that a large international company would inevitably “pump money into Channel 4 and aggressively pursue a commercial schedule that could compete with ITV.”
He envisaged how privatisation would harm the editorial freedom of its broadcasting in commenting “I can imagine getting a call in the middle of the night from a shareholder sharing their view about something we were going to air that was going to have a lot of impact. That does happen in the commercial sector. The nature of that coverage would subtly change over time. And the fierce independence of our journalism, I can’t help but think, would alter over time.”
Channel 4 recently invested in a new Manchester city centre office in order to support its work with independent production companies as well as its commercial and creative partners. The new North West hub on King Street will be headed by Ewan Douglas and will feature an open hub space with up to 15 hot desks and meeting rooms for up to 60 people.