Ofcom completes Channel 5 sale review

Ofcom has published its ‘change of control’ review following the sale of Channel 5 to Viacom. Ofcom is required by law to carry out a ‘change of control’ review if there is a change of ownership of Channel 5.

Ofcom’s review considers the effect, or likely effects, of the change of control of Channel 5 on the time allocated to news and current affairs; original UK TV programmes; and programmes produced outside the M25.

Prior to the sale, Channel 5 had significantly increased the amount of news programmes and original productions it broadcast in peak time.
During the change of control review, Viacom stated its commitment to invest in original UK TV production and news on Channel 5.
The company also offered to increase its key licence quotas to bring them closer to the higher levels of news and original productions on Channel 5 prior to the sale. Therefore, Ofcom changed the requirements in the licence. The minimum quotas were increased for:
– Original production in peak-time from 40 per cent to 45 per cent;
– News in total from 260 hours per year to 280 hours per year; and
– News in peak-time from 100 hours per year to 120 hours per year.

Ofcom took the view that increasing the quotas to these levels ensures that the broadcaster continues to produce high levels of news and original programmes to benefit viewers, while maintaining flexibility in the scheduling of its programmes.

Ofcom’s review concluded that the change of control of Channel 5 would have no prejudicial effects. The minimum quota for the amount of current affairs (130 hours per year, including 10 hours in peak time) and programmes produced outside the M25 (10 per cent by spend and volume) remain unchanged.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Group Director of Consumer and Content, said: “Ofcom is pleased that Viacom has shown a strong commitment to invest in original UK productions and news on Channel 5. These are important features of public service broadcasting that we know viewers value highly.”

In February, Ofcom renewed the broadcasting licence for Channel 5 for a further 10 years from January 1st 2015.

Channel 5 has reinforced its commitment to News programming under its new parent company, Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), by renewing ITN’s contract to produce its 5 News bulletins and agreeing an increase in its annual News quotas with media regulator, Ofcom (see above).

ITN’s contract to produce 5 News has been extended by an additional two years through to early 2017, one of the first long-term supply deals Channel 5 has struck since VIMN completed its acquisition of the UK public service broadcaster.

David Lynn, President, VIMN UK, said: “We’re very pleased to have this early opportunity to demonstrate Channel 5’s unambiguous commitment to news programming under Viacom’s ownership. The 5 News team at ITN has done a widely admired job in differentiating its bulletins to engage audiences that aren’t being reached by other broadcasters and they should be very proud of the recognition their efforts have received.”

John Hardie, ITN Chief Executive, added: “5 News makes an important contribution to the media landscape in the UK by consistently delivering distinctive, authoritative news programmes and I am delighted that Channel 5 has recognised the quality of work of our team.”

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