Channel 4’s Chief Content material Officer Ian Katz has used his highlight session at this yr’s Edinburgh TV Pageant to warn that privatization would “destroy” the channel.
Katz made no bones in regards to the potential modifications to Channel 4 each on and off air: “It will be a really totally different beast to the Channel 4 we all know now. A lot that’s so particular and treasured would very doubtless be misplaced. Some folks say that’s not true as a result of you may simply write licence necessities that will shield all the things in regards to the channel that we worth, however that misses the elemental change you get while you transfer from a channel that’s function pushed to at least one that’s profit-driven….I believe what’s particular in regards to the channel can be destroyed.”
“TV Has Failed Disabled Folks, Totally And Completely”, Says Jack Thorne In Impassioned MacTaggart Lecture — Edinburgh
It’s an intense time for Channel 4. In addition to the upcoming transfer of its headquarters to Leeds, the DCMS session into the privatization of the channel closes in three weeks’ time.
Katz didn’t hesitate to wade into the talk, saying he had been warmed by the depth of help from gamers at each stage within the business in noting its significance to the artistic eco-system, but in addition in its content material as outlined by its present remit.
Katz identified the irony of the broadcaster’s current successes, amid the continued debate about privatization.
It has actually been a powerful yr, with the channel having fun with its finest share efficiency in a decade with each linear and digital audiences, and streaming figures up by 26% within the final yr. Katz highlighted Russell T Davies’ AIDS-era drama It’s A Sin receiving each essential acclaim and, as Katz reported, turning into Channel 4’s greatest ever streaming hit. And he additionally marked its success in reaching younger audiences, airing 22 out of 25 greatest exhibits geared toward this 18-34 age hole.
Because of this and different successes, Katz introduced at present that Channel 4 would have the ability to add an additional £24million into its content material finances for 2021/22, on high of the £60million beforehand introduced in June).
“There’s a sure irony that we’re having a debate in regards to the sustainability of Channel 4 at a second that sees Channel 4 in most likely the rudest industrial well being it’s been in in a decade.
“This may take us as much as the very best stage in content material spend in 5 years,” he defined, including that the precedence space for spending shall be on youthful audiences and youths.
“We’re launching this yr a teen service on our social platforms. One of many issues that’s been most gratifying this yr is our social media crew in Leeds now has best attain amongst 18-34 of any model. That’s an space we’ve seen actual traction and are going to place extra money in.”
Regardless of this focus, Katz defended his choice to cancel The Circle earlier this yr, a actuality present for younger folks now discovering new followers on Netflix within the US.
He stated: “The Circle was a terrific present for us, nevertheless it was an enormous chunk of our schedule, and the channel is all about change. One has to maintain trying and say, we’ve had a terrific run, let’s give you one thing new.”
Following Jack Thorne’s searing indictment of the TV business as one that’s failing disabled folks on and off the display, Katz additionally stated that Channel 4 shall be amongst those that “resolve to do higher”.
Katz mirrored on Thorne’s MacTaggart Lecture: “The one human response is to really feel collectively shamed.”
Whereas he made the purpose that Channel 4 isn’t any stranger to championing disabled voices and tales, highlighting its protection of the Paralympics (which begins at present, and can air thrice as many hours because the BBC’s current Olympic protection, based on Katz) and the success of comedy present The Final Leg, he agreed that Thorne had recognized an issue within the scripted sphere, and at present, he introduced that Channel 4 will fee at the very least one main drama in 2022 from a disabled author, and we’re considering exhausting about how we are able to help Jack’s initiative in how we are able to enhance entry to units.”
“There’s tons happening, a number of progress, however clearly nonetheless an extended strategy to go.”
He additionally championed C4’s forthcoming drama, Assist, penned by Thorne, set in an aged folks’s care residence in Liverpool, within the early days of the pandemic. He referred to as it “crucial, efficient drama that Channel 4 has ever transmitted”, including:
“These are the form of exhibits that when folks say, what’s it Channel 4 does that’s distinctive, these are the exhibits you wouldn’t have if Channel 4 weren’t right here.”
Former Newsnight editor and Guardian Deputy Editor Katz was promoted to Chief Content material Officer earlier this yr because the ad-funded public service broadcaster unveiled a reorganisation of its high crew as a part of wider plans to future-proof Chanel 4 and lean in to digital, streaming and on-demand. Katz oversees all editorial selections throughout linear, streaming, and social.