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Channel 4 to spend £10m on children’s content

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Channel 4 is ploughing £10 million into providing content for children aged 10 to 15 and has pledged to increase its commitment to working with new talent.

The plans were unveiled today as part of a blueprint called Next on 4, which highlights the broadcaster’s plans for the future and outlines the “enhanced public role it believes it can fulfil in the fully digital media sector of the future”.

Channel 4 said the strategy underlines its commitment to “maintaining its public status and preserving its unrivalled ability to connect new talent, voices and ideas to mainstream audiences”.

The overall strategy will be used to help the broadcaster negotiate for funding to replace the gifted analogue spectrum it currently receives, which it says will become valueless when digital switchover is complete by 2012.

As part of Next on 4, Channel 4 said it will increase the number of dedicated slots it has for new talent across all of its platforms and will launch a New Talent Month later this year, which Channel 4 director of television and content Kevin Lygo said would see “someone getting their first break on television every day”. He said this might include “a script by a new writer or a first performance by a new comedian”.

The broadcaster is also planning to invest £10 million a year into supporting a range of schemes through 4Talent.

Lygo added there would be an increase in the talent Channel 4 works with off screen too and said: “We want to ensure we’re working with the best talent from across the UK by increasing spend in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by 50% in the next five years.”

For children aged 10 – 15, the broadcaster said it was planning to spend an “initial £10 million” on new content for this “under served” age bracket.

Also unveiled today as part of the new strategy is the formation of a £50m creative fund, called the Four Innovation for the Public fund, which will see the broadcaster create public service content for new platforms, enabling “UK audiences to access high-quality content at the time and on the platform of their choosing”.

As part of this, it will look to reinvent established genres, including comedy and drama, to reach new audiences online and on demand.

The broadcaster has also announced the appointment of its first ever head of diversity at executive level and the appointment of a commissioning editor for multicultural programmes, who will have a “ring fenced budget for 9pm and 10pm”.

Overall, the broadcaster said it would broadcast more new programmes in peak time than any other public service broadcaster.

Speaking at the launch of Next on 4 today, chief executive Andy Duncan said the remit Channel 4 has had over the last 25 years had “served us well” but added that in the digital world the broadcaster needed “to be even clearer about the end benefits of Channel 4.”

Regarding funding of the new plans, Duncan said: “This blueprint of Channel 4’s future public role is ambitious, but currently it is affordable. We’re doing all we can in terms of commercial efficiency and self-help to sustain the public value we deliver. Longer term, however, it depends on replacing the subsidy we receive in the form of gifted analogue spectrum with new forms of public support of equal value”.

He said the support being suggested amounted to 15% of Channel 4’s total income and said: “It must be delivered in a form that gives Channel 4 financial stability and preserves its independence from editorial interference. New subsidy will underwrite the direct social benefits that derive from the plans we have outlined today.”

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