Channel 4’s educational programming took a hit last year, says Ofcom boss

Channel 4’s educational programming for young people took a “particular hit” last year amid the pandemic, a senior figure at the broadcasting watchdog has said.

Ofcom group director Kevin Bakhurst said the watchdog, which regulates Channel 4, has had “discussions” with the broadcaster about the amount of education content it provides.

He was speaking to a House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee hearing on the future of the channel.

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(Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Bakhurst said: “This is the one area where, in recent years, we have had some discussions with Channel 4 about how they are meeting this remit.

“They have a general remit for educational type programming for everybody, and then they have specific remit for serving young adults and older children.

“In the area of how you provide that kind of output, educational programming, to particularly young adults and older children – that’s been the area we have had some discussions with Channel 4 because there are different ways of delivering that.

“I notice last year in particular, where obviously the Covid environment played a huge part, but educational type programming took a particular hit last year with Channel 4.”

He added there is a “constant discussion” with some broadcasters about how they provide educational content for young people “because it’s high-cost and not commercially that valuable to them”.

The committee hearing was taking place as the Government consults on plans to privatise Channel 4.

The broadcaster is currently publicly owned and receives its funding through advertising revenue.

During the hearing Mr Bakhurst also praised the channel’s provision of news and current affairs programming.

“They are very successful in reaching younger audiences with news and current affairs, and I don’t think we should dismiss those in terms of their educational value,” he said.

“Dispatches, Unreported World are quite unique programmes and this is a classic one where they do have to produce a certain number of hours of those in their licence, but they do exceed their quota and they have just announced that they are going to produce more Dispatches on All 4.

“Those are the kind of programmes which they do impressively well, considering the competition, with 16 to 34-year-olds.”

Channel 4 have been contacted for comment.