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Current staff seek work as rescue fails

Twenty-three staff at Al Gore’s Current TV have begun to search for new work after attempts to rescue the UK channel failed and it is now set to cease broadcasting on March 11.

Jane Mote

Jane Mote

Satcaster BSkyB informed Current in January that it would not continue to fund the channel beyond the existing deal, which runs until March this year.

It offered Current the chance to remain on its EPG as either an advertiser or subscription-funded channel, but Current TV MD Jane Mote has confirmed to C21 that a rescue plan has failed and the channel will now close on March 11.

The closure will result in the loss of 23 jobs in the UK, including those of MD Mote and director of content Lina Prestwood, as well as loss of commissions for regular freelance and production companies such as Bright Hands Pictures, which produced returning Current series What Did I Do Last Night?

Mote said: “We were very close to finding a sustainable model but had an impossibly short amount of time given the late call by Sky on our funding.

“We totally accept it is Sky’s right to stop funding Current but we don’t accept the way that it was done, using out-dated inaccurate audience figures, or that we were given no warning before a sudden cut-off in funding just before Christmas, making a rescue plan unachievable.”

Mote said all staff, including senior executives, were looking for work. She also questioned whether BSkyB’s assessment of Current’s audience was consistent with its own channels, such as Sky Arts.

“I don’t think Sky realises what it is throwing away,” she said. “It seems that unless Sky’s name is all over the channel they don’t want to invest. I think this is a mistake as many of our participants think more positively about Sky for supporting an independent venture.”

Current was dealt two fatal blows over the Christmas and new year period, first when cable provider Virgin Media said it was considering axing the channel from its line-up and then BSkyB announced it would be withdrawing financial support.

Current was one of a number of channels on BSkyB’s EPG that it helps to fund, but the broadcaster refused to offer any more money beyond March, citing poor audiences.

Rob Webster, BSkyB’s commercial director, previously told C21: “Content is at the heart of Sky’s business and we’re committed to investing in the cut-through programming that matters most to our customers. We already spend more than £350m a year with pay channel partners, but we need to make this investment work hard in delivering high-quality, pay-exclusive content that gives customers more reasons to subscribe.

“Despite investing significantly in Current TV since its UK launch in 2006, the channel simply hasn’t made the impact with our customers that we’d hoped for. That’s why we’ve decided not to renew our retail relationship.”

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