Andy Duncan 'optimistic' about future of Channel 4

Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has said he “firmly” believes that a solution to the broadcaster’s funding concerns is around the corner.

In a keynote speech at an event organised by the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts in London, Duncan said the Government’s forthcoming Digital Britain “action plan” – which is expected at the end of this month – would determine how Channel 4 and the broader media industry would compete “in the turbulent times ahead.

His comments follow an announcement in October last year that Channel 4 was to make 15 per cent of its workforce redundant. The broadcaster has also shrunk its programming budget.

Channel 4 hopes the results of Ofcom’s public service broadcasting review – which is published next Wednesday – will help plug what it estimates is a £150m-a-year funding deficit.

“Completely out of character, I’ve found myself cast in the role of Mr Pessimistic, simply because I’ve consistently warned that there’s trouble ahead,” Duncan said today.

“Now the trouble has arrived, I find myself in the much more agreeable role of Mr Optimistic – I firmly believe there’s a way through.”

One of the options being considered by Ofcom is giving the part of the BBC licence fee used to promote digital TV to Channel 4 to strengthen its programming.

Duncan stressed that all of the broadcasters need to work together and co-operate to ensure their survival.

“When resources are tight, all our inclinations are to pull the corporate wagons into a circle and fight to defend our own vested interests, but that is exactly the time when we need to be at our boldest and most imaginative,” he said.

Other options being considered by Ofcom include Channel 4 taking a stake in BBC Worldwide, being privatised or merging with Five.

But Duncan ruled this last option out, adding: “It makes no sense whatsoever to imagine that merging a not-for-profit publicly owned broadcast business with a for-profit, privately owned broadcaster is going to solve the fundamental structural problems we are all facing.

“Mixing oil and water doesn’t work. It just makes a mess.”

Duncan stressed the importance of a “fully digital Britain” for the future of the UK economy.

He highlighted the creative industries’ contribution to the economy, providing an estimated two million jobs and £60bn of “economic benefits”.

However, he warned that Britain would have to work hard to ensure it retained its position as a market leader.

“Every other dynamic country in the world from China to Finland is now striving to maximise the value of their own creative industries and very often entertaining much higher ambitions than we do,” Duncan added.

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