Channel 4 has just finished their commitment to the Paralympic Games with daily coverage from Tokyo, but a former chairman and chief executive warns things could change if the broadcaster is sold to the highest bidder.
Over the past fortnight Channel 4 has broadcast 1,300 hours of the games, three times more which was shown when the BBC had the rights for the event.
But if the broadcaster is privatised there are fears coverage of the games will be cut because Channel 4 will need to start making a profit from the Olympics.
The channel was launched in 1982 as an independent broadcaster to rival BBC1, BBC2 and ITV receiving around 90 per cent of its income from TV advertising, therefore it is not required to turn a profit or pay dividends to shareholders.
Lord Burns was chairman of Channel 4 when the Paralympics moved from the BBC. He told The Guardian: “The way that Channel 4 was set up gives it the ability to do things unlikely to be achieved by any other broadcaster.
“The Paralympics was made for a TV station like Channel 4, with people who can take risks, people whose remit requires something that is different.”
Under the government consultation run by culture secretary John Whittingdale it is doubtful the broadcaster a new commercial owner will be able to continue funding unprofitable programming at such a vast scale.
David Abraham was chief executive of Channel 4 from 2010 to 2017. He said: “The government expects Channel 4 to keep investing in unprofitable remit-delivering initiatives like the Paralympics – and working with the hundreds of independent production companies – but hopes that these can all be delivered for another 40 years by a profit-maximising entity that either is, or can be, foreign-owned and controlled.
“If indeed there are any sums, they definitely don’t add up.”
In 2012 Channel 4 made a £30m loss, followed by a £15m deficit in 2016 broadcasting the London and Rio Olympics.
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