Bectu RPD Ofcom Statement

15 March 2024

The Regional Production Division of Bectu, representing members in the UK’s Nations and Regions working as freelancers across scripted and unscripted content, is extremely concerned that Ofcom appears to have conceded to Channel 4’s claims regarding the Nations and Regions production quotas being higher than they reasonably ought to be.

Channel 4 has a remit to deliver content for the whole of the UK, and to fully do this, productions need to be dispersed across the Nations and Regions. At a time where the industry is struggling, there needs to be larger commitments outside of London to ensure those working outside of the M25 are given the same opportunities as those inside. Fostering and retaining talent that is genuinely based in the Nations and Regions at every level of the workforce is a responsibility of those commissioning content. Without this talent, there would be nothing to put on air. As the industry is in a commissioning drought, there needs to be a strong commitment to the whole of the UK that work will return.

Channel 4 itself in its 4 All The UK strategy committed to ‘Representing a diversity of thought and opinions from across the UK, and across all of our content.’ The strategy stated: ‘We’ve committed to upping our spend on creative content in the Nations and Regions – from 35% to 50% of main channel UK commissions by 2023.’

To commit to this, but then also claim to Ofcom that it has struggled to commission outside of the M25, is contradictory and unacceptable. It asks questions regarding the validity of its own reporting as Channel 4 has provided data that disproves this directly – it has exceeded its own voluntary 50% outside of M25 commissioning target for a number of years. Further, Channel 4 also part owns a large number of independent production companies in the Nations and Regions – to claim those outside of London do not have the ‘Capacity to develop creative ideas, and produce them in comparison with London’ is insulting. This statement to Ofcom is a slap in the face to all of those regional teams who have worked on Channel 4 shows in recent years.

The Regional Production Division of Bectu joins Pact, The Screen agencies of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and the indies in Northern Ireland and Scotland in calling for Ofcom quotas for Channel 4 that match those given to the BBC at the very least, and fully enshrining its 50% outside of London spend into the licence formally.

The division also calls on Ofcom and Channel 4 to focus on ensuring that regional productions do not use loopholes to circumvent commitments to providing opportunities for regionally-based workers.

Mike Prickett, Chair, Bectu Regional Production Division

On behalf of North West Freelance and Independent Branch, Scottish Freelance Branch, Western Freelance Branch, Northern Ireland Freelance Branch