Minister sends warning to Channel 4

Broadcaster to be 'scrutinized'

LONDON — U.K. media minister Tessa Jowell has warned hybrid pubcaster Channel 4 that its future will be “very closely scrutinized.”

Her remarks follow those of regulator Ofcom, which last week said that in future the controversial broadcaster’s public service performance would be more tightly monitored.

Jowell’s remarks came as she confirmed that £14 million ($27.86 million) would be diverted from the BBC — funded by a license fee levied on all U.K. TV watching homes — to pay for the cost of Channel 4 switching to digital transmission.

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan said he was “delighted” adding, “This is important transitional help that will underpin our public service contribution.”

But the sum of money falls well short of the £100 million ($199 million) Duncan has been campaigning for.

Jowell’s tough words for Channel 4, made during a speech to the Royal Television Society, were more uncomfortable reading for Duncan and his senior colleagues, who this week announced a strategic review of the web.

She said: “The recent past has not been the channel’s finest hour. Mistakes have been made — but also lessons learned — and Channel 4 must understand that its performance will continue to be very closely scrutinized.

“Channel 4 has always been at its strongest when it has closely adhered to its public purpose — innovative, educational, distinctive and appealing to diverse audiences.”

The broadcaster is owned by the British state but is funded by advertising and in return for free spectrum is legally obliged to fulfil certain public service obligations.

There has been speculation that incoming British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is considering privatizing Channel 4.

Critics say Channel 4 has become too dependent on “Big Brother” and “Big Brother” spin offs.

A recent row over allegations of racist bullying in “Celebrity Big Brother” led to Ofcom forcing the web to make a public apology on air.

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