Merging Four and Five. 

27 February 2004

MediaGuardian: Channel 4 in talks with Five over merger

It was inevitable. The overly commercial state of the current Channel 4 has meant that someone had to think about it at some point. The surprise is that it’s not the government but Channel 4 themselves.

Whilst it’s being called a merger, it would effectively be a takeover of Channel 4 by Five’s owner. There reason for this is simple – nationalising Five just isn’t an option.

For those that don’t know, Channel 4 is a publicly owned broadcasting corporation, just as the BBC is. The difference is that it is entirely funded by advertising. Whilst in theory the government might retain a stake in a merged Channel 4/Five, there seems little point.

Its reason for existence was always to provide something different to the competition, but if we’re honest, it hasn’t been doing that for a long time – as documented in the EMC article Fourgone Conclusion back in 2002.

Its remit is also looking rather antiquated if we’re honest. How do you provide something different in a multi-channel age where you’re competition includes an increasing number of single-genre channels broadcasting 24 hours a day.

Of course the government could decide to force Channel 4 into being more public service again – perhaps along the lines of PBS in America. However the government is far more interested in the BBC than it is in Channel 4. Channel 4 warrants little attention and just gets on with things.

With no real government interest in what it does, it has to be asked why the government still wants to own it.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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