Ofcom completes Channel 5 sale review

23 October 2014

Ofcom today published its ‘change of control’ review following the sale of Channel 5 to Viacom.

This follows the announcement last month that Northern & Shell Ltd had completed the sale of Channel 5 to the US media group.

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 must consider 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.

These are important features of public service broadcasting and conditions in the Channel 5 licence. Ofcom must vary the licence if it considers the change of control to be prejudicial to any of these matters.

Increased quotas for TV news and original programmes

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% to 45%;
  • 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% 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 1 January 2015.

The ‘change of control’ review and the variation made to the Channel 5 licence can be viewed on Ofcom’s website.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. Ofcom is required by law to carry out a ‘change of control’ review when the Channel 3 (ITV, STV, UTV) and Channel 5 licences change ownership.
  2. The level of delivery for Channel 5 between May 2013 - April 2014 was 54% for original productions (overall and peak) and 302 hours of overall news and 148 hours of peak-hours news.