‘Synergy’, ‘Pluraility’ and ‘Radicalism’ appeared to be the keywords playing on Andy Duncan’s mind, as he explained his vision of a merger between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide.
Channel 4’s CEO felt the broadcasters could be beneficial to each other, holding on to their ‘distinctive’ brands while planning bold strategies for a bigger and brighter future. The question was, according to Duncan, ‘how much synergy is there?’
He highlighted BBC Worldwide’s DVD venture as an example, positioning Channel 4 as the ideal candidate to, ‘unlock some of the constraints’ placed on the BBC in the cross promotion of this enterprise.
Any notion of the station’s identity being absorbed and lost as a result of the plan was shrugged off by both Andy Duncan and Anne Bulford, the organisation’s financial director. “At heart, the culture would be aligned,” she claimed. “You have to maximise the commercial revenue you can get from that.”
Despite claims that the channel would effectively be syphoning the BBC licence fee ‘through the side door’, Duncan remained insistent that talk of merger was only a partial solution.
Duncan indicated direct funding from the licence fee could still be ‘a valid option’ in the long term. Pooled resources, radical action and strategic thinking would be needed if value were to be added to the organisations.
Channel 4 is unlikely to move away from London in a bid to save money, although it is keen to expand its influence around the UK. London was the centre of the UK media industry, Andy Duncan explained to the committee. Savings made from any move were likely to be ‘negligible’ at best.
Although Channel 4 is already active in places such as Glasgow, Duncan admitted the station had relatively little presence in Scotland and other parts of the UK, outside England.
The station’s CEO said that they were adept at creating good quality ‘one-off’ shows. The challenge was to create more opportunities for ‘returning’ series based in the region.
Certain Channel 4 IP, such as ‘Dispatches’ and ‘Cutting Edge’ already allow for the allocation of programming and resources focused in and around the country.