Channel 4 has provided yet more concrete evidence to remain in public ownership, posting a record set of financial results including revenues topping £1B ($1.18B) for the first time, digital advertising shooting upwards and more spend than ever in the nations and regions.
Bosses at the broadcaster led by CEO Alex Mahon have repeatedly argued that the government’s claim it could be “unleashed” by privatization is incorrect, with the It’s a Sin and We are Lady Parts network already performing so well, and earlier this week Mahon revealed that the report’s publication was delayed due to the government’s desire to reword some of it that she implied would have made its financial situation appear worse.
Today’s results solidify Mahon and co’s position, with turnover rising by an impressive 24% (helped by a return to somewhat pre-COVID normality) to £1.16B ($1.37B), a pre-tax surplus topping £100M ($118M), which rocketed by 36%, and a huge boost in content spend.
The government’s major argument that Channel 4 needs to be able to better respond to competition from digital streaming giants also fell flat, with the report showing digital advertising revenue, one of the network’s key growth metrics, rose by 40% to £224M ($265M) and now comprises 19% of total revenue. Channel 4 is targeting that figure to be 30% by 2025 and said it is on track.
And views to VoD player All4 rose by 21% to 1.5B, with 400M more required to hit Channel 4’s 2025 target, again well within reach.
Splashing The Cash
Channel 4’s commitment to the British independent production sector, a commitment that could be watered down by a sale, was also strongly evidenced by a 29% increase in content spend to £671M ($793M), a similar percentage rise to the BBC’s shown earlier this week and a return above pre-pandemic levels.
Of that £671M, 55% was spent on out-of-London producers, beating Channel 4’s 50% target for the second year in a row. Channel 4 has repeatedly stressed its ability to help the production sector beyond the capital as a reason for it needing to remain in public hands. The pubcaster, which turned 40 this year, even borrowed the government’s rhetoric of “Levelling up the UK” to celebrate the out-of-London growth.
The broadcaster is also well placed to deliver a record £15M ($17.8M) investment in training and development across the UK over three years, according to the report, which came three days after the BBC’s also showed strong progress with licence fee income, content spend and BBC Studios’ turnover all increasing.
The Conservative government is electing a new Prime Minister over the coming weeks to replace Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who rubberstamped privatization, will also be removed. Hopes are growing that Johnson’s replacement may reverse the sale, which was due to be debated in parliament this week but has now been cancelled. The vast majority of respondents (96%) to the government’s own consultation on privatization said a sale would be a bad idea.
Mahon used her foreword in the Annual Report to once again push Channel 4’s alternative vision to privatization, a vision that was “rooted in continued public ownership and built upon the huge amount of public value our model has delivered to date.”
“But ultimately, the ownership of Channel 4 is for fovernment to propose and Parliament to decide,” she added. “The decision to privatise will inevitably have an impact on the organisation; existing risks may be amplified or new risks may emerge, all of which must be managed as we continue to deliver on our remit.”
She went on to say: “Our job is to deliver what Parliament tasks us to do, and if or when that changes, I am confident that this incredible organisation will respond with the relentless energy it has always displayed.”
‘Tower Block of Commons’
The ever-controversial Dorries caused a stir during a May government committee session when she claimed that Channel 4 had used actors in a show she had participated in 12 years ago in which British MPs lived in council block estates for two weeks.
Following Dorries’ comments, Channel 4 and producer Love Productions investigated Tower Block of Commons and found “no evidence to support the allegations made against the programme,” according to the pair’s findings delivered alongside today’s Annual Report.
“Channel 4 takes any allegations of misrepresentation extremely seriously and always rigorously investigates any such claims,” added the statement.
Dorries had said “the parents of the boys in that programme actually came here to have lunch with me, and contacted me to tell me they were in acting school,” but participants in the show were quick to refute her claims prior to Channel 4 and Love’s investigation.