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.

The Battle for Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on November 14, 2006

This week Channel 4 News has launched an invasion of Afghanistan, presenting an in-depth series of reports live from the country every night for a week. But the BBC are defending their terrority and pulling out their big guns to win the hearts and minds of the British viewing public. But who will win?

Alex ThompsonChannel 4 News from Afghanistan” is the lastest in a strand of excellent ‘news events’ produced by the C4N team, as part of their nightly bulletins. Earlier in the year Jon Snow reported from Iran, a series which was nothing short of groundbreaking. This time, Alex Thompson’s donned the desert fatigues and is presenting the programme live via satellite all week.

Monday’s programme introduced us to the head of Kabul’s CID, in charge of stopping drug dealers and the Taliban, plus an interview with Pakistan’s President Musharref. Tonight the team are getting dirty with the blooming opium industry.

At least half of the 50 minute programme was dedicated to Afghanistan last night so there’s no messing around and each report is a real in-depth analysis of events.
Alistair LeitheadNot to be outdone, the BBC have brought out their heavy artillery in the form of Alistair Leithead, their correspondent embedded with British troops, who did a special report for the 10 O’clock news.

Now I’m no fan of embedding and I think it tarnished the Iraq War coverage but it served the Beeb well yesterday. At times, I thought the package was an astonishing piece of solo-journalism and was ready to praise Leithead’s VJ skills. But it’s since transpired that producer Peter Emerson and cameraman Fred Scott did admirable jobs on the piece. The troops were open and the footage dramatic.

The winner? I think the Beeb took it this time, but with four days left of live coverage from Kabul, Channel 4 News may well prove me wrong.

  • Watch some of Channel 4 News here.
  • Watch Alistair Leithead’s report here.

Incidentally, the BBC/C4N battle is now a digital one. The BBC’s excellent Editors’ Blog has been challenged by the long-needed Channel 4 News blog

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