C4's Andy Duncan: BBC partnership offer 'not sufficient'

The BBC’s proposed partnerships with other broadcasters and news providers ‘do not go far enough’, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has warned.

Speaking at the Financial Times Digital Media Conference in London, Duncan said the corporation needed to do more to help sustain news and public service broadcasting outside the BBC – or it risked difficult discussions with the Government when its licence fee settlement next comes up for renewal in 2012.

The BBC and Channel 4 are currently in talks to find a way in which the corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, could be used to reduce C4’s estimated £150m-a-year funding deficit.

The corporation has also said it is willing to consider partnerships with other media groups, including newspapers.

But Duncan said the proposals, while welcome, would contribute “a few tens of millions of pounds” between now and 2012 – during which time the BBC’s income will be in the region of £15bn.

“To be blunt, the scale of what the BBC has so far offered the industry in terms of partnership is not sufficient,” he told delegates.

“The BBC has enough resource to do more without damaging its own capacity to invest. Not just Channel 4. But regional news, online, radio.

“This is not about plundering the BBC to bolster the profits of private shareholders. It is about bolstering a healthy domestic content base.”

Duncan said the BBC needed to act quickly, “before the system is damaged beyond repair”.

“If they do not embrace thinking and acting on behalf of the system the consequences could be more uncomfortable still,” he added.

“When they next come to negotiate the licence fee in 2012 the system may be so out of kilter the Government may be tempted to reduce the BBC’s resources – resources that could have strengthened the system as a whole.”

Channel 4 has axed a third of its jobs since last summer and trimmed £125m from its costs – a move followed last week by ITV and Channel Five, which both announced major cuts.

But Duncan said C4’s position was “much stronger than the headlines suggest” and the broadcaster was “viable on a standalone basis [and] not in danger of going bust”.

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