Seems the government is considering either privatising Channel 4 or merging it with Channel Five. A reality check with the viewing public (ask your aunties and some mates) shows some already think C4 is privately owned, given it has ads on it. Some think it’s somehow owned by ITV. It isn’t, but ITV used to sell C4′s ads for it.
A merger with Five makes huge sense given that, basically, C4 is going to have to be even more commercial to survive in future, as is everything, even the BBC.
The government is considering two further options for C4 – that it teams up with the commercial arm of the BBC, the bit which publishes magazines and sells programmes outside the UK. Or that it somehow gets some more public money. That last one seems the least likely outcome, given even the BBC didn’t get all the money it asked the government for last time round.
I’m not against privatisation of C4 and doubt the viewing public would notice much difference unless the few serious programmes left on C4 disappear. Even then, viewers might not care. But what would a merged C4 and Five look like? Channel 4.5 with Big Brother, Dispatches and CSI. That probably sounds OK to most people. It would have over a tenth of all TV viewing and an even bigger slice of TV advertising.
If C4 chief executive Andy Duncan doesn’t secure the public funding he’s been asking for he can always resign in a huff. He’s not a programme-maker, hasn’t been a TV person for most of his career and some people don’t expect him to remain in the TV industry forever. So Five’s team led by Dawn Airey could run the next biggest commercial broadcaster after ITV. Beauty. Go for that, Mr Carter, broadcast minister, sir.