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C4 CEO Andy Duncan on Digital Britain

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan said today that a C4/Channel 5 partnership would be like “mixing oil with water”. Speaking at Nesta, he gave his views on the government's forthcoming Digital Britain report, the future of Channel 4 and of UK media at large.

With consolidation “a solution of the past”, the partnerships proposed by the BBC are largely insubstantial from a commercial perspective, according to the C4 boss, though forging links with BBC Worldwide is one route with real potential.

Creative industries key to UK economy

Duncan urged UK media to join together, looking beyond the interests of individual industry players, and think of solutions “in a global context - not based on the problems of the past 50 years, but truly looking ahead.”

Traditionally viewed as a "soft, woolly thing" in certain quarters, UK media's role for both economy and society have never been more important, more so even than the auto or financial industries, which have received, or are about to receive massive government support.

Digital Britain

Addressing the issues raised by the Government's forthcoming Digital Britain report, Duncan emphasised its importance to our social and economic future:

On regulating content on the 'net:
  • Parents have valid concerns, and this must be addressed
  • The ad industry has provided an excellent model for self-regulation
  • The ISPs, and particularly Google “should show leadership” on these issues to take the debate forward

On the 'digital divide’, "a serious threat to the wellbeing of UK society", Duncan drew a parallel with the US public healthcare system, where as many as a quarter of citizens are alienated from the system.

  • Universal broadband access is an absolute must-have – a “basic right” which is even more important for the disadvantaged

"Radical Structural Change" and "Rebooting"

Duncan summarised by pointing out that while the growth of online media in the past 10 years has been stratospheric, the US still dominates the UK online market.

The content produced by UK media is a “priceless national asset”, but the problems it faces will not be solved by market forces alone, and the system needs both “radical structural change” and “rebooting”.

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