New C4 boss culls quarter of managers in major overhaul

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The Independent Online

David Abraham is making his mark as the new chief executive of Channel 4 by slashing a quarter of senior managers and calling for a "fundamental evolution" at the group.

The former advertising executive had pledged to restructure the broadcaster shortly after taking over at the beginning of May, and yesterday he announced an overhaul of the business, focused on greater integration of its digital operations.

The new shape of C4 will see online commissioning and production combined with its TV equivalent to form a single division. David Abraham said: "We are going further than any other broadcaster has yet gone to fully integrate our commissioning and content teams as we anticipate the tipping point in the convergence of television with other media."

One industry expert said: "C4 needs to survive the downturn, and in the absence of a deal or the ability to buy its way out, it needs to focus on reorganisation and cutting costs."

Insiders denied the changes were just a dressed up cost-cutting exercise. One said the company had already cut its workforce by 23 per cent to less than 700 in the past 18 months to cope with the advertising downturn, and was now positioning itself for the recovery.

Mr Abraham held a series of discussions with senior figures in the broadcasting industry before taking the reins at the broadcaster, and since May has carried out a strategic review. He said yesterday that C4 needed "to fundamentally evolve the way we work in response to this convergence, becoming leaner, more efficient," adding that he did not want new media to be isolated.

The new content division will be overseen by the chief creative officer, a newly created role. It will combine the roles of Julian Bellamy, the head of Channel 4, with that of director of TV and content, which was held by Kevin Lygo until his recent departure for rival ITV. Mr Bellamy will take on the role in the interim and has been invited to apply for it full time.

"Combining our two most senior creative roles also takes out a layer of management and is intended to offer our commissioning heads a clear and direct route to the creative centre of the organisation," Mr Abraham said. "We will also look at a further restructuring of our commissioning teams to again reduce layers of management and overlap and offer our independent suppliers that same direct route into our senior creative decision makers."

Part of the restructuring will see the group's 48 senior managers cut to 36 before the end of the year by not replacing departures "and a small number of redundancies". The managers directly reporting into Mr Abraham will be more than halved from 13 to six.

As part of the shake-up, the group finance director, Anne Bulford, who was acting chief executive after the departure of Andy Duncan in October, has been promoted to chief operating officer. Her role will be expanded from responsibilities for finance, legal, compliance and commercial affairs to include oversight of the strategy department, commercial and business development and technology operations.

Mr Abraham will also create the role of director of audience technologies and insight to oversee research, data management and analysis and its commercial use throughout the organisation. Mr Abraham said: "Channel 4's great strength is its ability to inspire loyalty amongst certain audiences who feel great affinity with our programmes and brands, but we have hardly scratched the surface when it comes to understanding and managing these relationships for mutual benefit." At the heart of the entire restructuring, he added, was the desire to "encouraged increased collaboration and to unite our creative teams behind a shared vision across all platforms".