Banks to Play Part in Channel 4's Future

21 October 2008

LONDON: Despite the fact most UK banks currently sport an uncanny resemblance to the Titanic, the country's new communications minister – Lord Carter of Barnes, aka Steve, former head of Ofcom – is calling in the moneymen to help decide the future of state owned but commercially funded broadcaster Channel 4

Channel 4 made a loss of £20.6m ($35.8m; €26.7m) last year as advertising revenues fell and it ramped up its investment in digital media.

Current estimates suggest the broadcaster's funding shortfall could reach £150m a year, with analysts valuing the company – which had some £195.2m in the bank at the end of 2007 – at around £500m.

Carter is to ask banking experts to assess the broadcaster's position as part of his recently announced review of communications, entitled Digitial Britain.

Total or part-privatisation is one option under consideration, with Carter saying: "I'm sure I'll be getting that sort of advice", an unguarded statement that suggests predetermination.

Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, is also reviewing Channel 4's future, a possible outcome being a decision to share the licence fee that currently funds the BBC

Carter said that the watchdog's eventual decision "was an important one", but also that he would seek to establish "whether there is a financial gap before considering funding solutions."

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff