The ongoing threat of privatisation is “destabilising” for Channel 4 and the Government’s failure to give the broadcaster stability is “breathtaking” its chief creative officer Jay Hunt said today.
Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, the executive said that the issue, which was pushed by former culture secretary John Whittingdale, remains on the table and is damaging the broadcaster’s ability to plan for the future.
She said: “Sitting where I am sitting it is dispiriting to be sitting here one year later and still not able to close that particular conversation and I think it’s inevitable that for everyone at Channel 4, and for everyone who deals with Channel 4, that uncertainty is destabilising.
“One way or another we need some resolution on this. I find it absolutely breathtaking that one year after I was asked this question I am answering it again and we are none the wiser. We are one year later and we are planning into 2018 and I still don’t know the future of my organisation.”
Channel 4 is a publicly-owned advertising-funded broadcaster that ploughs all it profits back into its content. If it is privatised it would be answerable to shareholders and would be expected to generate revenue for shareholders in a move that critics say would detract from the distinctiveness of its output.
As well as possible privatisation of the broadcaster the government is also believed to be looking at other options including the sale of a minority stake to a “strategic partner” such as BT.
Hunt also took a mild swipe at Caitlin Moran for the journalist and Raised by Wolves writer’s claim in Radio Times earlier this year there weren’t enough working class comedies on TV.
Moran wrote that working class people are still underrepresented in British television and culture and that even when they do appear they’re often treated more like “animals” than “human beings”.
“Quite a lot of my self declared working class comedy commissioners were quite indignant when she said that,” said Hunt. “And we have got quite a lot in that vein coming down the road. Look at Chewing Gum, a Bafta and RTS-award winning show from a brand new writer.”
Raised by Wolves has been axed by C4 after two series and Hunt explained the decision: “We spent millions and millions of pounds on Raised by Wolves. It was quite well liked, it is quite critically acclaimed. It is one of that bubble of shows in the middle that has had millions of pounds of Channel 4 money and we have decided to move on and do other things…. Sometimes things get cancelled. That’s the way it goes.”
Hunt also said she was worried about the next generation of performing talent, citing F1 presenter Steve Jones as an example of a “remarkable presenter” who is from a generation “who are extraordinarily capable particularly live and I do worry genuinely whether that’s a dying skill.”
Hunt also defended controversial nude dating show Naked Attraction saying that no other UK broadcaster would risk a show like that and saying it performed a valuable public service in showing the realities of the dating game.
“For me to have a show on Channel 4 that completely challenges body image and to say that this is what a real naked body looks like for a generation that swipes left and swipes right is important.”