Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

A future for Channel 4 News?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on March 18, 2007

Channel 4 NewsroomChannel 4 chief Andy Duncan’s been making some worrying noises about one of the channel’s greatest assets: Channel 4 News.

As Michael Grade’s been trying to secure future funding for ITV News in the digital era, Duncan’s told a select committee of MPs that Channel 4 News won’t survive in it’s current form.

According to the Press Gazette:

Andy Duncan, Chief Executive of Channel 4, told the cross-party media select committee that Channel 4 News was unlikely to survive in its present form without public subsidy.

He said: “Whilst Channel 4 News is a flagship public service programme on the Channel, it is expensive to make and has limited potential for revenue raising.

“As such it is unlikely to survive in its present form – a one hour peak time programme, containing 40 per cent international news – in a purely commercial environment.”

The reason is simple: broadcasting on an analogue signal, all of the terrestrial channels have a certain public service remit. They’re all using large amounts of airwaves which belong to the public and in return they’re expected to provide us all with some news.

And because of this, and it’s unique public service remit, Channel 4 gets some cash for news.

But hark, on the horizon, the looming spectre of the digital switchover. We know now it’s going to start in Whitehaven on October 17th and will be complete by 2012. By then, all homes will be expected to have a digi-box and analogue transmissions will be turned off.

Broadcasting in naughts and ones is nice and compact. You can fit more channels and and not take up as much public airwaves. And because of this, broadcasters are loosing government cash (except the Beeb, of course.)

And – more worryingly – a channel’s news remit (again, except the BBC), will expire too.  Some channels – likely ITV and Five – may well say “screw news – why should I waste my money on that?”

And it looks like Channel 4 News, in spite of it’s scores of awards and cult following, could be forced to change in the next five years.  Let’s hope it doesn’t ditch it all together.

Sky News announced it was taking itself off the Freeview platform last month. Fellow journo Doidge rightly says the loss of competition in broadcast news can only be bad. Imagine that on a massive scale – and the redundancy consequences.

News is a bizarre commodity- like war, it costs loads to do with little or no financial returns. Not one to pitch to Dragons Den.

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5 Responses

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  1. peterswan said, on March 21, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the link Adam. I have to admit I’ve only just started thinking about next year, but I’m up for anything that’s get me a foot in the door. Do you know of any other radio/media employment sites that are any good?

    Things have been good here. Term finished last Friday, but a lot of people are hanging around to nail essays and the such before the final run in.

    I hear the Hoon invited you and Jimmy round for the Barca game the other week. Is Steve only capable of socialising through the medium of football?

  2. [...] trend’s already begun Last month I wrote what has to be the most pessimistic of predictions for the future of Channel 4 News, probably Britain’s best quality domestic news [...]

  3. And so it begins… « Adam Westbrook said, on September 29, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    [...] And so it begins… Has it been 18 months since I wrote this? [...]

  4. Car said, on May 8, 2009 at 2:52 am

    just browsed in….

    Wasn’t what I was looking for, but good website. Thanks….

  5. Edgardo Simelton said, on December 20, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Definitely one of the better posts that I have seen on this topic. Are there other things that I should know about this?


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