Northern Ireland

Demand for more Northern Ireland content on Channel 4 as Ofcom criticised for ‘extremely disappointing’ quota recommendation

Regulator has been slammed for recommending only 9% of all C4 programming be made outside London

Following the appointments, Channel 4’s board will have 15 members – of whom 14 are white
Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road, London. (Philip Toscano/PA)

At least 3% of all programming on Channel 4 should be produced in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed as the UK broadcaster prepares to have its licence renewed.

The channel’s broadcast licence expires at the end of this year, having last been renewed by regulator Ofcom in 2014.

Ahead of any renewal, Ofcom launched a public consultation on changes to the channel’s licensing obligations.

However, the regulator has recommended that Channel 4 retain its exiting requirements that only 9% of programming be produced outside of England, and just 35% outside of London.

The 9% figure rose in 2020 from 3% when the channel’s licence was renewed in 2014.

A spokesperson for the publicly owned Channel 4 TV Corporation said it found the rise to 9% “very challenging”.

“As such, we would strongly oppose increasing this quota so soon without giving it time to embed, and, particularly given our size, it could make us vulnerable to missing a quota because of disruption to or the loss of one or two key programmes,” they said.

Regional UK agencies Northern Ireland Screen, Creative Wales and Screen Scotland have criticised Ofcom’s recommendation not to increase the quota, which would allow for more Channel 4 programmes to be made in the north.

Recent shows produced in the north for the channel include Tiny Islands, which was commissioned last year for production by Belfast-based Tern TV.

NI Screen chief executive Richard Williams said he was “extremely disappointed” with Ofcom’s recommendation in the consultation, which closed earlier this month.

“As relates to Northern Ireland, Ofcom ignores the deeply concerning portrayal ownership statistics which say that while 51% of Londoners identify with C4 only 22% of people in Northern Ireland do, and fails to make any connect between this damning statistic and C4′s extremely poor record of commissioning from Northern Ireland over the 10-year license period,” he said.

“We urge Ofcom to reconsider its position, treat Northern Ireland with respect and increase Channel 4′s Made Outside England Quota to 16%, with a specific Northern Ireland quota of 3% based on population size.”

An Ofcom spokesperson told the Irish News: “We will carefully consider all responses to our consultation before publishing our final decision this summer.”