Labour Peer and broadcasting grandee Lord Puttnam has warned that three quarters of all UK television content spending could go on acquiring sports rights with 37% of TV budgets going to football players within a decade.
Currently sports rights account for 46% of the total TV content spend, which stood at £6.4 billion according to the latest set of Ofcom figures. But Lord Puttnam warned today that this could rise to 74% in ten years time – something he described as an “absurdity.”
“There is no reason to assume that figure won’t be 74%. At what point does it not become insane that three quarters of expenditure of all programming is going into sport? What is the figure where you go ‘this is mad’?
Channel 4 should not be privatised in full or in part, says former deputy chair Lord Puttnam.
Lord Puttnam’s Future for Public Service Television Inquiry has called on the government not to sell off the broadcaster and to clarify its future “as soon as possible”.
“Recently, Channel 4 has been threatened with privatisation, in whole or in part, a proposal that would threaten its public service remit,” Puttnam wrote in the report.
Culture secretary John Whittingdale told a cross-party committee earlier this month that he was refusing to rule out either a partial or full sell of C4.
The fate of the broadcaster has been expected to be decided before parliament’s summer recess on 21 July, pending discussions with C4’s board. It’s not clear whether the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron will impact this timetable.
Chariots of Fire director Puttnam, who was deputy chair of C4 from 2006 to 2012, said the broadcaster has a “critical place” in the public service ecology.
He welcomed its support of the independent production sector and its range of diverse content.
However, he said that the broadcaster should arrest the decline in arts programming and commission more series for teenagers.
“C4 should significantly increase its provision for older children and young adults and restore some of the arts programming that has been in decline in recent years,” he added.
The BBC’s licence fee should be replaced, its royal charter abolished and government intervention curtailed to protect the corporation’s independence, according to Lord Puttnam.
The recommendations have been outlined in Puttnam’s Future of Public Service Television report, which calls for the formation of several independent bodies to protect the BBC from government interference.
Puttnam warned that public scepticism encircling the media has spread to broadcasting and public trust could only be restored by minimising government interference.
“A well-resourced and fully independent public service television system that is free of political coercion offers our most reliable means of rebuilding public trust and accountability,” he said.
A “Google tax” on the revenues of digital media giants would fund new public service television programmes produced by arts organisations, a report by Lord Puttnam has recommended.
A wide-ranging review into the future of broadcasting, conducted by the Oscar-winning film producer, has produced radical conclusions, including the abolition of the BBC licence fee and its possible replacement by a Council Tax supplement.
Lord Puttnam said the need for “trusted sources of information” was vital if an informed democracy is to thrive in a digital era when “market totalitarianism” threatens public service broadcasting.