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How sustainable is Channel 4? Lords to investigate

How would privatisation affect Channel 4's remit? Would changes to its remit provide greater sustainability? Is Channel 4 equipped to deal with the challenges of changing viewing habits? These are some of the questions that the House of Lords Communications Committee will be seeking to answer as part of its new inquiry, launched today.

The Committee will investigate Channel 4 Corporation's (C4C) current model and remit, and its sustainability, both in terms of viewing and finance. It will also look at other possible models for the future of the organisation, including privatisation, and examine the impacts that these might have, both on the wider industry and the public.

Committee Chairman, Lord Best, said:

“In our previous inquiry, we heard compelling evidence about the importance of the BBC and its place in the nation's affections.

“But where does this leave other public service broadcasters? Ofcom's Review of Channel 4 in 2014 showed a decline in audience reach and share for its main channel. This was largely offset, however, by increased viewing of other channels within the organisation, such as More4, E4 and Film4.

“In September last year, a government official was photographed carrying a document which led to speculation that the Government might seek to privatise C4C. Its Chief Executive, David Abraham, has warned that Channel 4's current remit would inevitably come under threat if the broadcaster were to be privatised, saying it would endanger some of its output such as news and current affairs, as they are not as commercially viable.

“We want to investigate this issue fully, to explore the pros and cons of privatising Channel 4, and to see if keeping its status quo is possible, both financially and in terms of audience viewing figures. I would encourage any relevant organisations such as industry groups, academics and commentators, other broadcasters, trade unions and anyone else with expertise or an interest in this subject to submit evidence to our inquiry.”

The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 20 April.

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