Tim Tate

Author, Film-Maker & Investigative Journalist


The Truth Shall Make You Free Fret


So, farewell then, Jay Hunt. Channel 4’s “Chief Creative Officer” has announced her resignation after six years at the (notionally) Public Service Broadcaster. She is unlikely to be missed, except by a fairly small number of production companies which have benefitted from her tenure.


Coincidentally, the future of the Channel is once again under official scrutiny. After toying with the – very bad – idea of privatisation, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has opened a public consultation on whether Channel 4 should be forced to move out of London to an as yet un-named location.


In the context of this week’s general election, the question of Channel 4’s geographical base may seem like small beer. The DCMS consultation ends in July, by which time Britain will have a new government that – whatever its political colour – is likely to reveal very different priorities to Theresa May’s somewhat opaque administration.


But the problem of Channel 4 – and it IS a problem – is both urgent and fundamental to the crumbling failure of this country’s democracy. Because it, and all British Public Service Broadcasting has abandoned its obligation to educate and inform the public: these broadcasters have, instead, concentrated on cynical, audience-grabbing entertainment (which happens to make many of those involved a tidy sum of money).


As a result, the population – the vast mass of people who will vote on Thursday (or who will not bother to do so) – is at best under-informed about the issues on which the election will be decided.


I worked in public service broadcasting for 32 years, making serious films for all channels.  I therefore feel well enough qualified – and sufficiently angry at the erosion of this vital element of our democracy – to have made a detailed submission to the DCMS consultation[1].


I have little confidence that my submission will be received sympathetically: it dissects how successive governments relaxed regulation to allow once-serious broadcasters to degenerate into purveyors of lazy, lowest common denominator television pabulum. But it also puts forward a blueprint for a radical re-invigoration of Public Service Broadcasting. For that reason I am posting the submission below.




Jay Hunt’s resignation could – given a government determined to return to real public service broadcasting – be A Good Thing.   She was not, of course, the whole of the problem with Channel 4: she was merely the most recent of its bosses who pushed it ever further along the path of shoddy entertainment (collecting, on the way, a £139,000 performance bonus in 2015 in addition to her £612,000 salary).


Whoever replaces her can either continue down that road, or can return to commissioning serious public service programmes.   But unless the DCMS and the industry regulator, Ofcom, understand that moving the Channel outside London will not – on its own – re-invigorate British television, the likelihood is that Channel 4 will carry on broadcasting the same shameful democracy-rotting candy floss that had characterised Ms. Hunt’s time at Horseferry Road.




[1] It may – or may not – be an indication of how serious DCMS is about this consultation that it initially managed to publish a non-working e-mail address for submissions.

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