Spending on U.S. shows cut by 8%

EDINBURGH — Channel 4, the U.K. web under fire for failing to fulfill its public service remit, is to spend around 8% less on U.S. acquisitions as part of what it calls a creative renewal.

Announcing the changes during a speech at the Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival, which bowed Friday, director of television and content Kevin Lygo said the budget for U.S. shows was being cut to help fund British shows made by independent producers.

Pointing out that the cost of U.S. fare had “spiraled, while the return is not as great as it used to be,” Lygo added: “We will be less reliant on this particular genre from now on — our expenditure will fall, freeing up money and slots for new independent commissions.”

The £120 million ($240 million) annual spend on U.S. shows would be cut by $20 million, approximately 8% of the acquisitions budget.

A key part of the creative renewal involves opening up the 9-10 p.m. slot for new shows rather than returning series.

Significantly “Celebrity Big Brother,” which last winter attracted 45,000 complaints over allegations of racist behavior, will not air in 2008.

“If we wanted to take the easy path we’d re-commission all of these shows and we’d probably do two series of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ if ratings were all we were after, said head of programs Julian Bellamy. “These are the decisions of a public service broadcaster in search of the new and the exciting.”

Lygo said he hoped the new policy would help smaller British indies.

He said: “Consolidation has meant the extant companies are strong, but the creative naivete of the early days has passed. We are heading, if we are not careful, for a replica of the USA: just the studios and a few massive indies.”

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