Mark Thompson, Channel 4′s new chief exec, is beginning to make his presence felt at the U.K. pubcaster. Starting August 5, C4 puts into effect a new commissioning structure designed to define department objectives, simplify the process by which producers submit program proposals, and encourage creative risk-taking. The overhaul sees commissioning departments reduced from 13 to eight, along with substantial job cuts.
The change comes on the heels of huge financial losses: in total, Channel 4 Television Corporation lost £21 million (US$33 million) last year. Despite this, improved revenue forecasts led Thompson to announce an extra £8 million ($13 million) for programming in 2002, on top of the existing £390 million ($615 million) budget.
Under the new structure, non-fiction programming is handled by two main groups: contemporary factual and specialist factual. Sara Ramsden, formerly head of science and education, now leads the contemporary unit. Operating under her stewardship is factual entertainment (a new department for docs previously commissioned from comedy and entertainment, as well as event docs such as Big Brother), documentaries (which takes over management of multicultural programs and remains helmed by Peter Dale) and nations and regions (managed by Stuart Cosgrove). Specialist factual amalgamates history, ancient history and archaeology, science and education, and arts, performance and religion. Janice Hadlow heads this group.
‘Before the changes there was a danger that we missed things, because no one was directly responsible for the wide range of programs that come under this heading,’ says Dale, ‘We’ll now have a much better idea of what other factual areas in the channel are planning, enabling us to quickly identify gaps and overlaps.’
The remaining commissioning units at C4 are comedy and entertainment, drama, news and current affairs, and sport.