Channel 4 chiefs are accused of ‘chumocracy’: Amid fury at privatisation plan, how the channel set up to innovate is now a sad mix of flops and repeats
- Channel 4 is accused of running chumocracy for London production companies
- Winners of the £510million budget are multi-millionaire television executives
- Stephen Lambert and Peter Fincham’s firms make a number of shows for C4
Channel 4 has been accused of running a chumocracy that lines the pockets of wealthy London-based production companies while insisting it supports small, regional businesses.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that big winners from the broadcaster’s £510million annual programming budget are multi-millionaire television executives Stephen Lambert and Peter Fincham, whose firms make a significant number of shows for the network.
Mr Lambert’s company, Studio Lambert, has sold more than 25 programmes to Channel 4 over recent years, including The Circle, a reality show based on social media axed due to poor viewing figures.
He is understood to be worth more than £5million, with offices in Central London’s Soho and Los Angeles. Mr Fincham, formerly director of programming at ITV, was handed a lucrative commission to make the little-watched daytime show Steph’s Packed Lunch, which is filmed in Leeds, although his company, Expectation, is based in West London’s trendy Notting Hill.
Channel 4 has been accused of running a chumocracy that lines the pockets of wealthy London-based production companies while insisting it supports small, regional businesses. Pictured: Anna Richardson, presenter of hit Channel 4 show Naked Attraction
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that big winners from the broadcaster’s £510million annual programming budget are multi-millionaire television executives Stephen Lambert and Peter Fincham, whose firms make a significant number of shows for the network. Pictured: Naked Attraction
The Mail on Sunday understands that C4’s chief content officer Ian Katz has spent time on Mr Lambert’s yacht. The channel’s boss, Alex Mahon, has publicly spoken about the ‘incredible support’ she received from Mr Fincham after he recruited her to work for TV company Talkback Thames in the early 2000s.
Mr Fincham has in turn said of Ms Mahon: ‘She is not just the hardest worker in the class, but also the brightest.’
A source told the MoS: ‘The channel’s bosses pretend they are all about supporting small, regional, independent production companies but that simply isn’t true. It wouldn’t be so bad if the shows were successful, but so few are.’
However, a spokesman for the channel insists its ‘commitment to the UK creative industries has included significant investments in the smaller production companies outside London’.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries (pictured) has been gunning for a sale of the state-owned public service broadcaster
Doris Roberts, Peter Boyle, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Patricia Heaton in Everybody Loves Raymond
Every weekday morning last week, repeats of US sitcoms Cheers, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond were followed by re-runs of Gordon Ramsay’s American series Kitchen Nightmares (pictured)
Last week the Government announced plans to privatise the channel to help it compete with streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon.
The decision comes after years of clashes between the Government and broadcaster, as well as suffering low ratings. Only two C4 programmes featured in the 100 most-watched terrestrial shows on in the last week of March: Gogglebox and a Bake Off special in aid of Stand Up To Cancer.
Channel 4 was set up in 1982, and at the time its purpose was ‘to create change through entertainment’. And as for its claims to be ‘innovative’, its current schedule suggests otherwise.
Every weekday morning last week, repeats of US sitcoms Cheers, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond were followed by re-runs of Gordon Ramsay’s American series Kitchen Nightmares.
Over the years, programming choices been criticised, with concern about shows such as Me And My Penis, Dogging Tales and My First Threesome.
In the 1990s, the screening of Hookers, Hustlers, Pimps And Their Johns prompted the Daily Mail to describe the channel’s then boss, Michael Grade – who last week was named the new head of media regulator Ofcom – as ‘Britain’s Pornographer-in-Chief.’
C4 has been publicly owned since 1982 and is funded by advertising.
Ms Mahon has a salary of £991,000 – more than double that of the BBC director-general.
Staff blame her, along with former Guardian journalist Mr Katz, for the failure to provide innovative programming. They also enjoy telling an anecdote – which she denies – of her describing Mr Katz as her ‘one mistake’ which ‘everyone is allowed’.
Sources say that C4’s bosses are ‘desperate’ to keep their lucrative jobs and have made their own proposal to Ms Dorries to partner with private investors to spend £200million a year on films and shows as an alternative to privatisation.
Last night a spokesman said: ‘Channel 4 is in robust health, both in terms of its much-loved content and its financial position.
‘Its unique operating model also means that Channel 4 does not cost the public anything and all its profits are reinvested in its programmes and digital platforms.’
NADINE DORRIES: Predictably, the Leftie lynch mob refuses to accept what is best for British TV
BY NADINE DORRIES FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Tories are supposed to loathe Channel 4. And it doesn’t always help itself with its news anchor shouting ‘f*** the Tories’, or broadcasting an alternative Queen’s speech by Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad or a deep fake of Her Majesty.
Despite this, and for the metropolitan elite who say I’m out to destroy the broadcaster, I’d like to say that I really like Channel 4.
I’ve spent evenings curled up on the sofa in front of Bake Off, First Dates or Jenny and Lee bickering on Gogglebox. My kids grew up on TFI Friday, Frasier, Friends and Crystal Maze.
Channel 4 plays a unique and important cultural role in British life.
Since it was established by that radical Leftist Margaret Thatcher in 1982, it has more than fulfilled her aim of stimulating the independent production sector – which has exploded from a £500million industry in 1995 to £3billion in 2019.
Tories are supposed to loathe Channel 4. And it doesn’t always help itself with its news anchor shouting ‘f*** the Tories’, or broadcasting an alternative Queen’s speech by Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad or a deep fake of Her Majesty. Despite this, and for the metropolitan elite who say I’m out to destroy the broadcaster, I’d like to say that I really like Channel 4, writes Nadine Dorries
However, as her memoirs reveal, job done, Mrs Thatcher concluded in 1988 that Channel 4 should be sold.
Broadcasting is now a totally different and digital world. Streaming giants have exploded on to the scene, with juggernauts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ upending the old order.
Technology has transformed the way we consume content. Our viewing habits are no longer confined to TV channels but have morphed into a world where we choose what we want to watch, and where and when we want to watch it.
To suggest that Channel 4 isn’t already competing with new platforms for audience share, talent, ideas and skilled employees is wilfully delusional.
Netflix spent £779 million on UK original productions in 2020 – more than twice as much as Channel 4.
I’ve spent evenings curled up on the sofa in front of Bake Off (above), First Dates or Jenny and Lee bickering on Gogglebox. My kids grew up on TFI Friday, Frasier, Friends and Crystal Maze
In fact, Channel 4 decreased the amount it spent on new content by £158million at a time when it should be investing in new programmes, technology and skills.
The channel is niche and State-owned, a restrictive incongruity in itself.
And because of the way Channel 4 is owned, it cannot build a back catalogue to export, or have an in-house studio to create and sell content. Instead it relies almost entirely on advertising, which is increasingly migrating online.
It would be irresponsible for any government to sit back and allow the status quo to continue.
So last week I made the decision that it is time to unleash the broadcaster’s full potential and open Channel 4 up to private ownership and investment while protecting its crucial public service broadcasting remit.
Sadly, the reaction was as predictable as it was inflammatory.
Few opponents want to engage with the issue of guaranteeing Channel 4’s long-term future.
They’re happier sneering, accusing me of not being ‘smart enough’ to understand Channel 4 or descending into full-on abusive hysteria.
Post-sale, I want to reinvest the proceeds into levelling up the creative sector, training a skilled workforce to fill the jobs in our booming film and TV studios, says Nadine Dorries (above)
One Labour MP claimed a Channel 4 sale would be ‘the seedbed of fascism’.
I shouldn’t be surprised. This streak has always existed in and around Channel 4.
Its former head of news, Dorothy Byrne, who has been defending the station, is the same person who in a lecture compared our Prime Minister to Vladimir Putin.
But let’s dump the lazy, overwrought and ill-informed rhetoric from the Leftie luvvie lynch mob and take a cool look at the facts.
Our independent production companies are flourishing, with only seven per cent of the industry’s revenue coming from Channel 4. We made more films in the fourth quarter of 2021 than Hollywood, and dozens of new studios are due to open.
Channel 4 is a distinct cultural asset which has created some of the best programmes we have ever been lucky enough to watch. But its salad days are in the past.
It is time to look to a grown-up future against the backdrop of a digital future. We believe we can sell Channel 4 to a buyer who will fund emerging talent, independent and impartial news, and invest in every corner of the UK.
Streaming giants have exploded on to the scene, with juggernauts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ upending the old order. (File image)
Creative talent can be found everywhere, hidden in plain sight in all backgrounds and corners of this country.
The Government intervened to move Channel 4 to Leeds, despite much opposition within the broadcaster, and there is no reason for a sale not to accelerate that process, moving more of the broadcaster north.
Post-sale, I want to reinvest the proceeds into levelling up the creative sector, training a skilled workforce to fill the jobs in our booming film and TV studios.
To develop creative skills in left-behind parts of the country. Channel 4’s sale won’t just benefit the broadcaster. It will deliver a creative dividend for all.
That is a truly Conservative and Thatcherite vision for Channel 4. One where we protect the public service elements of broadcasting, ensure its sustainability and invest in creative skills, opening up the sector to a much broader section of society.
It is fundamentally Conservative to want Channel 4 to grow so it can invest in better technology, content and people and have an even bigger impact on our creative economy than it already has.
That’s what I want to get on with – and the overblown reaction from the same people who snobbishly decried my appointment the moment I walked through my department’s doors won’t stop me.
In 1988, Margaret Thatcher was right. She could see that Channel 4 would only ever reach its full potential when it was free from the constraints of the State – and that is the vision and the outcome we will deliver.
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