Channel 4 investment fund aims to stave off sale

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Channel 4 will launch an investment fund worth tens of millions of pounds to capitalise on demand for British programme ideas and bolster its finances against renewed pressure to privatise.

The broadcaster, which is owned by the state but funded commercially, is expected to unveil the new venture this week, according to industry sources.

Channel 4 plans to offer production companies cash to help develop and market programme formats overseas, in part by guaranteeing their British version a prominent slot in its own schedules.

In exchange it will take a share of the international profits of the next Gogglebox or Come Dine With Me, when their formats are sold to foreign broadcasters or streaming services.

The Gogglebox format, which is owned by the production giant All3Media, has been sold in at least 16 countries including twice in the United States.

The fund is designed to allow Channel 4 to profit from such demand for British programme ideas, while allowing independent production companies to retain all their domestic intellectual property rights. The broadcaster was set up by the Thatcher government and is prohibited from owning the British rights to the programmes it shows.

The new fund will come on top of Channel 4’s normal budget and be drawn from the “significant financial surplus” it expects to generate this year after making deep emergency cost cuts when the pandemic struck.

It is expected to be a crucial part of the broadcaster’s fightback against claims from ministers that its business model will not survive the exodus of viewers to streaming services such as Netflix.

Channel 4 is seen as particularly exposed because of its focus on young audiences and almost complete reliance on advertising income.

John Whittingdale, the media minister, has questioned its sustainability as the Government begins a review of public service broadcasting.

Channel 4 declined to comment on its new investment fund.