Greg Dyke On Broadcasting

C4 should celebrate its strengths rather than plead for public money
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Let me start by saying that I am a fan of both the Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson and the chief executive Andy Duncan, but I believe they are way off beam when they claim that Channel 4 will need to receive public money to support public service broadcasting on their channel some time during the next decade. Their argument is that if they don't get the possibility into legislation now when the BBC Charter is up for re-newal, it will be their last chance for 10 years.

First, I don't accept that argument. Much more importantly, I don't believe Channel 4 will need public money in the next decade, and by arguing for it now, it is not only underestimating the power of the Channel 4 brand going forward - it is in danger of undermining it. Channel 4 is a big success story, and its leadership should be shouting that from the rooftops rather than whingeing on about wanting the right to have some of the TV licence fee at some time in the future.

To use a footballing analogy, it's like being top of the Premiership and spending your time worrying publicly about being relegated. Of course there are challenges ahead for advertising-funded channels, from the growing use of personal video recorders and the coming of programming-on-demand via broadband. Both mean that viewers could skip the ads. But the challenge for commercial broadcasters is to use their entrepreneurial skills to overcome those difficulties, not to plead for public funding.

No one could argue that Channel 4 needs public money right now; in fact, if you look at what has happened to Channel 4 in recent years you could argue that it currently has, to use Mark Thompson's famous phrase, Jacuzzis of cash anyway.

With Channel 4 's director of sales, Andy Barnes, admitting in an injudicious moment that advertising revenue is flowing into Channel 4 so fast this year that he's burying it down the back of the sofa, and with stories circulating that Channel 4 is paying for programmes years in advance, the channel can hardly claim it needs money now.

And even if the channel hits a difficult year for advertising revenue some time in the future, that doesn't mean it needs public funding. It has a headquarters which it owns and costs no rent. The channel's revenue over the past decade has grown at a much faster rate than any other terrestrial broadcaster; in fact, it has grown at an average of 11 per cent a year for 10 years. As a result, its spending on programming has grown at close to 15 per cent a year in the same period.

What all this means is that even if the channel hits fallow years, its revenue would have to fall by an enormous amount before, in real terms, it was back where it was 10 years ago. This is likely to happen to ITV long before it happens to Channel 4.

When Andy Duncan arrived at the channel, discussions were going on into what would have been, in effect, a merger with Five. Duncan, quite rightly, killed off the merger by opening up the prospect of public funding.

Now it is time for him and Luke Johnson to quietly forget it because the more they bang on about it the sillier they will look. Only last week one research organisation came out with forecasts that, next year, Channel 4's revenue is likely to increase by another 10 per cent.

More blood on the carpets at ITV

A couple of weeks back, I wrote how it was good to see that the old business maxim, "There's a crisis, so deputy heads must roll" still applied to ITV, with the firing of the head of sales Graham Duff. Since then, there's been deputy heads' blood all over the ITV carpet with the firing of the director of broadcasting Mick Desmond and the announcement that the finance director Henry Staunton is leaving soon.

But the oddest decision by the chief executive Charles Allen (whose signature tune has to be "I Will Survive") is the appointment of Simon Shaps as ITV's new director of broadcasting. Having never scheduled or commissioned - the two talents a broadcaster needs - Shaps has said that he plans to do both in his new job, which has not gone down too well with Nigel Pickard, who is actually employed to commission and schedule ITV1.

As a result, Shaps' appointment has not gone down too well at the ITV Network Centre, particularly as in his period as head of Granada productions, he was responsible for the series of flops the channel has had this year. He seems to have escaped unscathed from failures like Celebrity Wrestling and Celebrity Love Island.

But what has really horrified people at the Network Centre is that Allen has said he's going to leave the ITV building on the South Bank and move to the home of the centre in Gray's Inn Road so he can "get closer to the decision-making". Could ITV's audience share decline even faster?

Double act: Charles Allen (left) with Simon Shaps, who plans to tackle both scheduling and commissioning at ITV

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