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Channel 4 Hits Back at BBC Criticism; Accuses BBC of Plan to “Undermine” It

News, 14 February 2002


The publicly-funded British Broadcasting Corporation was slammed Wednesday by commercial broadcaster Channel 4, which claimed that the BBC’s digital ambitions would cut the ground from beneath its own C4 and E4 brands.

Although purporting to support in principle the BBC’s right to launch a digital service targeting the ad-sexy 16 to 34 age group, this “duplicates rather than complements what Channel 4 and other commercial broadcasters are already providing,” claimed a C4 spokesperson.

“Is it sensible to use £97 million of public money every year to mimic existing services and simultaneously undermine both Channel 4 and E4's long term ability to fund Channel 4's own public service ambitions?,” rhetorically questioned the spoke.

The statement is a counter-attack on criticism earlier this week by BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, who queried C4’s track record in public service broadcasts for younger audiences – a key element in the channel’s licence obligations. C4, Davies charged, relies heavily on US imports – an accusation it indignantly denies.

“It is wrong to suggest Channel 4 relies mainly on imported programming to serve younger audiences,” parried the C4 spokesperson. “Over recent years we have an unrivalled track record in developing innovative, British entertainment talent including Graham Norton, Smack the Pony, Ali G, Johnny Vaughan and Dom Joly, who are hugely popular with these viewers.”

Channel 4 reached 75% of the 25-34 age group every week, said the channel, citing BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) data.

Meantime, the BBC’s new digital channels are likely to encounter a number of new government-imposed conditions. Culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell has asked the BBC to provide additional information on such factors as regional output and the use of UK talent on its new youth channel.

And following a meeting Monday with C4 and other commercial broadcasters, she is understood to have requested further justification of its digital channel for the 16- to 34 age group

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk and BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff