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Channel 4 is upping its content spend by £40m and is ahead of its out-of-London targets – but its staff diversity efforts stalled in 2020, its annual report reveals.

Thanks to the recovering advertising market, coupled with a 26% growth in streaming views and a 3% rise in its linear channels’ share, C4 said it is expected to deliver more than £1bn in revenues for the first time this year.

As the government again puts the prospect of privatisation on the agenda, C4 defended its turf by pointing to distinctive PSB-flavoured hits from drama It’s a Sin to documentaries Caroline Flack: Her Life & Death, Council House Britain and A Day in the Life of Coronavirus Britain [main picture] and lockdown shows such as Grayson Perry’s Art Club.

The channel spent £370m on originated content in 2020, down from £492m in 2019, having been forced to slash costs during the pandemic. Its total spend was £522m, down from £660m.

It said it is now able to add £40m to its content spend this year to return its budget to pre-pandemic levels by 2022. 


However, C4 struggled to diversify its staff in 2020, with ethnically diverse staff share stagnant at 17% and dipping from 14% to 12% in the top 100 earners. Its target for both remains 20% by 2023.

Disabled and LGBT+ share stayed on 10% and 8% respectively.

In 2020, C4 aired 184 hours of programming covering diversity issues, a decline of 31%. Just over half of these – 96 hours – were first-run, a 34% drop, including 53 hours of peak-time, again down 34%.

Shows highlighted include Ramadan in Lockdown, Is Covid Racist?, Our Mental Health Emergency and comedy Feel Good – despite C4 passing on the second series of the Netflix co-pro, which went straight to the streamer.

Ahead of its ‘Black To Front’ day in September, there was an encouraging sign of strong representation among suppliers. Over the year, 85% of C4’s shows met its Commissioning Diversity Guidelines, which set on- and off-screen targets in each genre.

Nations and regions

C4 confirmed that its Leeds national headquarters will officially open on 6 September, and the broadcaster is expected to beat its target of 300 roles based outside London by the end of the year.

In 2019, nations and regions’ share of original commissions was up 1% to 47% and C4 said it was on track to hit its 50% this year, two years ahead of its target.

However, due to cuts forced by the pandemic, out-of-London spend fell by 25% from 2019’s record £189m to £141m.

C4’s nations and regions strategy also includes a wider rollout of an initiative launched in the north to link indies with freelancers looking for work. Created in partnership with TV Talent North, this has attracted 30,000 members in three months.

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