Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 17:33 UK

Cashflow scuppers C4's kids plans

A scene from Hollyoaks
Hollyoaks was one show already liked by older children, Mr Duncan said

Channel 4 has a "valuable" role to play with viewers aged nine to 15 but a lack of cash keeps some children's shows off-air, its chief executive has said.

Children in this age group were "not well covered by the BBC or commercial broadcasters", Andy Duncan told MPs on the Commons culture committee.

"Our brand and our credibility with [them] is very strong and we'd like to do more specific programming."

Some shows are being held back so there are enough to screen in 2010, he said.

Channel 4 was having to juggle its long-term schedules to ensure there were enough programmes to go around, Mr Duncan explained.

This was because the broadcaster is trying to save about 100m, the effect of which will see 150 employees losing their jobs, he added.

The idea that they could lock, stock and barrel move ITV's regional news from them to us doesn't really make sense
Andy Duncan
Chief executive, Channel 4
"For example, we have a very good history series which has been commissioned, and very good series about moving on from education to work which has been commissioned.

"Because of the cuts we're having to make in the next year, we're not in a position to play those out."

However, Mr Duncan said a lot of Channel 4's output "appeals disproportionately to young people anyway".

"We've got certain programmes like Hollyoaks, for example, and some of the T4 activity at the weekend, which is targeted at - and appeals very strongly to - those groups."

Hostage release

Mr Duncan was asked about a wide range of subjects during nearly 90 minutes before the committee. He gave evidence alongside two other Channel 4 executives.

He suggested the cost of abandoning Channel 4's three planned digital radio stations would be somewhere in the region of 9m, a figure which was about 1% of the company's annual turnover.

He repeatedly declined to say whether a ransom had been paid to free investigative reporter Sean Langan, the Dispatches presenter who was held hostage for three months in Pakistan before being released in June.

Andy Duncan
Mr Duncan said Channel 4 could never match ITV's heritage on regional news
And he was emphatic in stating that Channel 4 would not introduce regional news bulletins, in response to comments by ITV chairman Michael Grade that his network's regional coverage may be outsourced in future.

"We bring a lot of regional stories to wider Britain, and that's something historically we've done very well," Mr Duncan said, referring to the nightly Channel 4 News bulletin and current affairs series such as Dispatches.

"We've got no track record whatsoever of delivering more regionally targeted programming, whether it's the news or anything else for that matter."

Channel 4 would be unable to win as many viewers for regional news compared to "50 years plus of regional ITV companies having real local roots in the way they appeal to the local area".

And devoting a section of the Channel 4 News programme to regional news would result in less "distinctive" national and international news, he added.

"I think there might be a small role we could play, for example online.

"But the idea that they could lock, stock and barrel move ITV's regional news from them to us doesn't really make sense."

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