Channel 4 'still living up to Margaret Thatcher's mandate', says chief executive in anti-privatisation plea

Channel 4 is “still living up to the mandate that Margaret Thatcher set” for the broadcaster in the 1980s - while Leeds is at the heart of its plans to evolve with changing viewing habits, executives have said.

Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4. Picture: Simon Hulme

The station’s bosses used a virtual event to officially mark the opening of the station’s new Leeds HQ in the Majestic building to make the case against the potential privatisation of the organisation - a move currently being consulted on by Government.

Chief executive Alex Mahon highlighted that the channel was formed in the early 1980s by Mrs Thatcher’s Government “to be a radical and innovative force in UK broadcasting, we have been changing and we have been evolving”.

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She said the organisation, which is owned by the state and receives funding from advertising that is then put back into programming, is “financially and creatively stronger than we have ever been” - thanks in part to moving staff to new locations such as Leeds.

“We are creating jobs and opportunities for young people hundreds of miles away from the capital and are commissioning programmes seen by millions both at home and around the world,” she said.

She added the channel is “still living up to the mandate that Margaret Thatcher set all those years ago” to deliver to under-served audiences.

Ms Mahon also mentioned another Government buzz-phrase in her comments - setting out how Channel 4's current model can allow it to assist with the 'levelling-up agenda'.

“We want to accelerate Channel 4’s public service impact for all corners of the UK by supporting more jobs, growing more skills and providing more opportunities to help level up the UK, create opportunities to those who might not have been able to consider a career in TV or tech, and helping create vital skills to support our regional digital and production sectors,” she said.

Chief operating officer Jonathan Allan said the channel’s shift from being a “linear broadcaster to a digital streamer” is ahead of schedule as audiences and revenues linked to its All4 streaming service increase.

“We are aiming to double All4 views from one billion to two billion and generate over 30 per cent of our revenues digitally by 2025,” he said.

“Since setting these targets in November 2020, we are well on our way to achieving them ahead of schedule. We have already exceeded one billion views on All4 so far this view and viewing is up 29 per cent year-on-year. By the end of 2021, we are expecting to have close half the gap to the 2025 target with 1.5 billion views.

“Clearly we still have lots of work to do. But these are levels of growth the big global digital giants would be proud of. Meanwhile, digital revenues are forecast to be up 32 per cent year on year and comprise almost 20 per cent of our overall revenues.”

He highlighted the work of its Leeds-based 4Studio in delivering digital content for use on social media websites as an essential part of its new approach.

“The next exciting digital move for us has been the launch of 4 Studio, taking all of our great content out into the wider world through social platforms.

“This isn’t just a huge new business for us, it is helping to create a thriving digital community across the North of England.

"We now have a team of over 70 based here in the Majestic downstairs, entirely focused on reaching young audiences with bespoke public service content through the likes of Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Snap. In our first full year of operation, we have overtaken LadBible as the most viewed branded content partner in the UK and we look forward to continuing to invest behind this new venture.”

Pride in Paralympics coverage

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon has said she was thrilled to see the success of the station’s new Leeds headquarters in hosting the broadcaster’s recent Paralympics coverage.

“It is hard to believe it is less than three years since we announced our Leeds HQ and today is the day we officially open in the Majestic building,” she said.

“I’m thrilled to say we are at the heart of the city and we are playing a growing role in the North of England’s creative clusters. I’m particularly proud that Leeds has been a main base for our coverage of the Paralympic Games.”

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