C4 chief gets pay rise of pounds 120,000

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TOP EXECUTIVES at Channel 4 have secured massive pay increases as the network indulges in a spending spree. Its annual report, released yesterday, shows that the chief executive, Michael Jackson, was awarded a pay rise of about pounds 120,000 - taking his total income for 1998 to pounds 478,000.

Mr Jackson, 40, earns far more than Sir John Birt, the director-general of the BBC, who was accused last year of being a television fat cat when he notched up pounds 387,000 in wages and benefits. However, Mr Jackson's rewards still fall short of those earned by his predecessor Michael Grade who, Channel 4 said, earned pounds 533,000 in 1996 and pounds 618,000 in 1995.

A Channel 4 spokesman said Mr Jackson's 33 per cent pay rise reflected the great success of his second year in the job, after quitting the BBC in 1997. Channel 4's audience share remained stagnant at 10.3 per cent of all television viewers, compared with 10.6 per cent the year before.

It did, however, manage a 9 per cent increase in advertising revenues to pounds 559.6m, and its head of advertising, Andy Barnes, received a bonus of pounds 113,000, taking his income to pounds 325,000, a 44 per cent pay rise.

Channel 4 is enjoying the benefits of a government ruling that, from this year, it no longer needs to pay lump sums of profit to ITV under the infamous "funding formula". Over six years it transferred pounds 412m.

The extra cash is allowing Channel 4 to increase its investment in original feature films by pounds 10m to pounds 32m this year. In the past it has produced such hits as Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Madness of King George and Trainspotting. A new film, The War Zone, will mark the directorial debut of the British actor Tim Roth.

The new FilmFour digital channel is setting up a "FilmFour lab", which aims to be "a beacon for radical, low-budget film-making". However, the channel admitted that it also amounted to "the purest area of risk within FilmFour". In its first year of trading, FilmFour supplied 17 films to Channel 4, and made a slight profit.

Total spending on new digital channels will increase this year to pounds 35m from pounds 9.9m in 1998.

Speculation is rife that Mr Jackson wants to start a new horseracing channel, and is looking at proposals for education, entertainment and fashion channels.

FilmFour said yesterday that it had attracted 100,000 subscribers in its first six months of operation. The success "has whetted our appetite for further developments in this area", Mr Jackson said.

The spending spree is also affecting Channel 4 drama, which last year increased its budget by a third to pounds 43m. The channel has an ambition to include at least one piece of original drama in its schedule each week in addition to Brookside and Hollyoaks. Current projects include the controversial drama Psychos and a new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy.

What The TV

Bosses Earn

Mark Booth pounds 1,115,628

Just resigned as head of BSkyB

Greg Dyke pounds 768,000

Chairman, Pearson TV

Michael Green pounds 658,000

Chief executive, Carlton

Michael Jackson pounds 478,000

Chief executive, Channel 4

Sir John Birt pounds 387,000

Director-general of BBC

Earnings last year

(including bonuses)