Channel 4 chief criticises UK television for lack of original ideas

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has warned that UK television is failing to “achieve its potential for real cultural impact”, claiming that an increase in new channels and platforms has resulted in too many similar programmes being made.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Abraham said original content, particularly on digital channels, is reaching only “tiny audiences”, adding that the “proliferation of channel and platform choice has led to more of the same rather than a variety of ideas in television”.

He also said that a fragmentation of audiences risks “stifling the transmission of new ideas rather than strengthening it”.

“The eco system still needs a creative counterweight and that counterweight is Channel 4 – a place that will be a source of inspiration and guidance and assistance in a world characterised by economic turmoil and profound social change,” he said.

Addressing drama output on C4, Abraham admitted the broadcaster does not have as many returning drama series as he would like, adding that in “an ideal world” where “the advertising market was booming again” there would be more.

However, he said Channel 4 had been “experimenting” with returning series, and added that be believed comedy drama Fresh Meat would be “around for some time”.

He admitted there had been a “little hiatus” where drama on Channel 4 is concerned, but said a “big wave” of new shows would be broadcast in the coming months, including Utopia, by Dennis Kelly.

Abraham also commented on the competition Channel 4 is facing from Sky’s increased investment in original UK content.

“A lot has been said about the aggression with which Sky is investing in original content but genuinely I think it is a good thing. But to look at the numbers, we are spending £600 million on content this year – £450 million on UK originated content as defined by Ofcom. Those are our numbers, that is serious fire power in terms of how much original content is on our channel every night. We will keep focusing on that, that’s our job – you can’t really worry about the competition in that regard,” he said.

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