Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has said he will defend the broadcaster’s news output at all costs despite the company facing a funding deficit of what it claims is about £150m a year.
But he said Channel 4’s investment in documentaries ‘would suffer’as the group cuts its programming budget ahead of an expected new funding settlement from the Government next year.
In an interview for the Media Show on Radio 4, Duncan said that the broadcaster would do “whatever we could do” to “ringfence” news but he said that “over a period of time…documentaries would suffer”.
He said: “If you look at what Channel 4 delivers, our argument is it’s a very modest investment.
‘I’m increasingly confident that the government will make some decisions and part of that will be finding a solution for Channel 4.’
Duncan defended his decision to accept a £1.2m pay cheque last year – and suggested that the amount paid to Channel 4’s senior management might fall this year as a result of the broadcaster’s funding troubles.
‘Remuneration is decided by the non-executive directors and the chairman,’he said. ‘They would benchmark that and I think their view is that it’s an appropriate rate given the market.”
According to the Channel 4 annual report – which was scrutinised by the media select committee this week – Duncan took home almost double his previous year’s salary, up from £622,000 to £1.2m thanks to a long-term loyalty bonus of £450,000.
‘The amount I was paid last year was largely linked to the fact that some of my salary had been deferred from earlier years,’Duncan said.
‘Of course any future decisions at the next remuneration committee will definitely reflect the difficult economic climate we’re in.”
Media regulator Ofcom is examining a number of options for the future funding of public service broadcasting, including giving the part of the BBC licence fee used to promote digital TV to Channel 4 to bolster its programming.
Channel 4 has said the squeeze on its finances is already being noticed by viewers.
Viewers editor Paula Carter told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference earlier this month: “Our programme budget is what’s really under threat. That’s already showing on screen.
‘We can already see audiences falling as we’re having to put more and more repeats on. The people who suffer are the audiences.”