Memorandum submitted by Channel 5
Channel 5 has welcomed the White Paper with
its intention to rationalise broadcasting regulation in a way
which recognises the speed of change in our industry. Naturally
we agree with the Government's aspiration for the UK to house
the most dynamic and competitive communications market in the
world and we wholeheartedly endorse the objective of effective
but lighter touch regulation.
Our channel will have completed its fourth year
on air at the end of March, in which time we will have exceeded
all our audience targets despite an increasingly competitive market.
We are a committed public service broadcaster and are well aware
of the responsibilities that this entails.
Our aim is to find new ways of looking at popular
access to television. Our documentary, factual and current affairs
programmes are straightforward and informative. 5News is full
of facts, upbeat in tone and less formal than its main rivals.
We are the only terrestrial channel to offer viewers news on the
hour seven days a week and our sense of social responsibility
is well represented through our educational output. At the same
time Channel 5 is expanding into new areas of activity, centred
around digital technology and the Internet.
We welcome the Government's commitment in the
White Paper that public service broadcasting will continue to
have a key role to play in the digital future. We agree that public
service broadcasting remains "the best way we have found
of creating a wide range of UK made programmes of the kind people
want" and that "mixed schedule networks, free at the
point of use, funded through advertising or a licence fee, continue
to be the best way of funding the production of mass audience,
high quality, varied, UK-originated programmes".
Under the 1996 Act, the three commercial PSB
channels were designated "qualifying services" and given
privileged access to the spectrum in order to achieve the widest
possible digital coverage for their programmes. Subsequently the
Government set, as one of its key tests for determining the switching-off
of analogue TV transmissions, that the main free-to-air channels
should be received by 99.4 per cent of households. This implicitly
assumes that the existing commercial PSBs should continue into
the digital age and we support that approach.
Channel 5 is a committed public service broadcaster,
we are well aware of the responsibilities that this entails. Without
question we wish to retain our public service broadcaster status
into the foreseeable future. We note the Government's proposal
(5.6.11) to review all the public service broadcasting requirements
on Channel 5, with the aim of "making the channel a far stronger
competitor to the other public service broadcasting channels"
albeit that, "if the channel changed some of its public service
broadcasting obligations, its tender payments would need to reflect
this". We welcome the flexibility given to us through this
proposal but will need to discuss further with the regulator and
with Government the financial and other implications.
At Channel 5 we are proud of our achievement
in launching a successful free-to-air channel in the face of increasing
competition. In 2000 we achieved an audience share of viewing
of 5.7 per cent despite our analogue coverage of 82 per cent.
We are committed to retaining our public service broadcaster status
albeit within an overall framework of lighter touch regulation.
In the key public service genres of: news, current
affairs, documentaries, education, arts, children and drama we
aim to provide an alternative to the other public service channels.
Our own special view of the world provides a point of difference
in style and in content to that of the other broadcasters. In
peak time our viewers are able to experience a different type
of schedule with news on the hour every hour and the certainty
of a movie every night. Our sports coverage features live football
and also sports such as live motorcycling and ice hockey that
are not normally covered by other channels. Late at night we experiment
with documentaries, features, adult output, experimental drama
and entertainment formats. Increasingly we are finding that as
the "new kid on the block" we are the channel that takes
the most risks with new production companies, new formats and
News (required target nine hours per week)
Our 5News aims to provide an alternative and
complementary news service to the existing bulletins on ITV, BBC
or Channel 4. In the past three years it has established a different
style of news presentation and production with a fresh, direct
and less formal approach than that of its main rivals. We remain
the only terrestrial channel offering viewers comprehensive hourly
news updates in peak time seven days a week.
Our arts (target30 minutes per week),
current affairs (required targettwo hours thirty minutes
per week) and documentary output (targettwo hours per week)
is straightforward and non elitist in approach. Overall we aim
to air people's views and opinions and to show how they live their
lives in a way that is straightforward and inclusive.
Children (Required target11 hours 40 minutes
Channel 5 maintains impressive levels of children's
programmingpre-school and teen. We transmit more dedicated
pre-school programmes than any other terrestrial channel with
twelve and a half hours a week.
Education (targetthree hours per week)
We aim to produce three hours per week of adult
education programmesbacked up on and off line with free
Drama (target 12 hours per year ex soaps)
Channel 5 cannot compete with the budgets of
the other terrestrial broadcasters and so aspires to additionality
with the aim of being different from the others. As well as the
occasional drama event which we will air in the 9pm movie slot
the channel has experimented in long running series of half hour
drama anthologies late at night.
Channel 5 supports the Government's intention
of retaining the independent production obligations for public
service broadcasters (4.3). We further welcome the Government's
recognition of the fact that changing production economies for
the independent sector should not prevent the broadcaster's ability
to be able to meet their obligations.
In our short history we have given an important
boost to the UK production sector by commissioning an additional
4,500 hours a year of originated programmes. In 2000 67 per cent
(both in value and in hours) of our commissioned programmes were
from the independent sector. Since our launch in 1996 we have
commissioned programmes from 250 different independent production
companies. We are committed to introducing new talent both on
and off air. We have achieved some notable successes with the
likes of Kirsty Young and Graham Norton and in several cases we
have been able to give independent production companies such as
"Sanctuary Films", "Tapestry", "Bullseye",
"2:3:5" and "Vascha" their first break on
main stream terrestrial television.
Channel 5 is a national broadcast channel which
unlike ITV and the BBC does not have the capacity to opt out for
regional programming. We are however committed to the principle
of encouraging the development of a healthy regional production
industry. This year we have introduced a new commitment to originate
10 per cent of our UK programmes by production spend from outside
Channel Five broadly welcomes the proposed three-tier
approach to regulation with the basic tier supporting standards
across all services and with further tiers applicable to public
service broadcasters. We welcome the intention of the third tier
whereby broadcasters will essentially deliver and monitor the
more qualitative aspects of their remits through self-regulation
and are committed to developing a system (backed up by our own
audience research) whereby the Channel 5 programme controllers
and our Board can ensure that the remit is being adhered to. We
believe that this new framework should prove to be a more flexible
way of delivering public service programmes that are relevant
to the needs and interests of our viewers.