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Channel 4 bosses’ bonuses a ‘slap in the face’ for staff facing redundancy, says Bectu

TV and film union Bectu has labelled the news that bosses at Channel 4 in the UK will be paid big bonuses “a slap in the face” to staffers facing redundancy and freelancers struggling to find work.

Philippa Childs

In January, the embattled commercially funded pubcaster revealed that it was to cut around 250 jobs, close underperforming channels and downsize its London headquarters.

However, despite planning to shed around 15% of its full-time workforce, the network’s CEO Alex Mahon, chief operating officer Jonathan Allan and content boss Ian Katz will still accept their 2024 bonuses – albeit it at reduced rates.

The three executives’ pay will be cut by around 30% to 40%, it has been reported.

In 2023, Mahon’s total pay soared by 25% to £1.5m (US$1.9m), the most ever paid to a Channel 4 CEO.

Despite the reduced rates, some in the industry have criticised the bonuses, which come at a time when Channel 4 is cutting its cloth, rowing back on commissions and threatening staff with redundancy.

The UK government’s soon-to-be-enacted Media Bill now allows Channel 4 the freedom to make and own its own content for the first time to help it expand its revenues beyond purely advertising.

That set alarm bells ringing within the UK’s independent production sector that has produced C4’s original programming ever since it was founded in 1982.

Other cost-cutting measures being investigated include changes to Channel 4’s commissioning teams towards a more streaming-focused remit, and a “ruthless focus” on show greenlights, concentrating on “fewer, stronger, new titles that generate more scale and impact.”

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said: “In the midst of a very difficult period for the UK’s film and TV workforce and industry at large, news of Channel 4 executives accepting large bonuses is disappointing to say the least.

“Hot on the heels of recent announcements of mass redundancies at the broadcaster, this will come as a slap in the face to both those at risk of redundancy and the many freelancers currently out of work.

“Bectu recently laid bare the extent of the work drought in film and TV, and the significant knock-on effect on workers’ financial and mental wellbeing.

“We have written to UK broadcasters, industry and government regarding the crisis facing film and TV freelancers, urging them to work with us to halt the exodus of diverse and talented crew and tackle the structural challenges that leave workers feeling isolated, that damage their mental health and devastate their financial security.”

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 is entirely commercially funded and makes sustainable financial decisions to support the delivery of its remit and boost the UK creative industries. It also has to attract and retain high-calibre employees in a competitive market.

“After careful and considered evaluation, Channel 4’s Remuneration Committee recommended that the Corporate Variable Pay Scheme be paid at half of the maximum opportunity for eligible employees. The award was calculated from Channel 4’s annual targets, remit and business goals.

“Channel 4’s annual report – published later this year – will show a 30 to 40% reduction in total remuneration awarded to Executive Members in 2023, compared to 2022. As usual, Channel 4 will share detailed information on executive pay in the annual report.”

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