Channel 4 chiefs' news cuts warning

Channel 4 chiefs have warned Parliament they might be forced to cut back on news coverage if the Government does not help the broadcaster plug a £150m funding gap.

Chairman Luke Johnson and chief executive Andy Duncan told a cross-party watchdog of peers that news and current affairs coverage would only be axed as a last resort.

‘It would be the very last thing we would chop,’Johnson told the House of Lords Communications Committee.

But he said cutbacks could not be ruled out unless there was a solution to the looming cash crisis facing the broadcaster.

Labour peer Lord Corbett, a former journalist, asked him whether he was saying there ‘may come a time when news and current affairs programmes are under threat’and ‘if you are going to survive’they may have to be reduced.

‘Ultimately it may come to that,’Johnson conceded.

Duncan added that the broadcaster was committed to keeping its one-hour news slot in the evening, which Johnson said cost ‘more than £10m”.

He said: ‘The quality of Channel 4 News is rated by the audience and by politicians.”

Channel 4 is working with Ofcom on alternative funding options for after the digital switchover in 2012.

One option is for the BBC to give up some of the £600m it has been allocated to pay for digital switchover, which it may no longer need.

Last week, Channel 4 launched its appeal for public service funding. Its ‘Next on 4’mission statement included plans for increased commitment to news and current affairs and the creation of a fund for producing public service digital content.

pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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