Please wait...
Please wait...

Debate over Channel 4 sale must be widened, urges YouTube’s McOwen Wilson

RTS: Discussion around the privatisation of commercially funded UK pubcaster Channel 4 should not become “insular and parochial,” according to YouTube UK and Ireland’s managing director Ben McOwen Wilson.

Ben McOwen Wilson at RTS Cambridge

The comments came after it was revealed that Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will outline his support for the controversial plans at the Royal Television Society (RTS) Convention Cambridge later today.

During the first session of the RTS event, titled Broadcast Britain, McOwen Wilson said that no “single issue” should define the debate around broadcasting legislation.

“Headlines are dominated by one particular question: the privatisation of C4. And there will undoubtedly be more details, more nuanced debates on many other points. We have a busy period of legislation ahead with the government and Ofcom public service broadcasting [PSB] review ongoing and the resulting media bill coming,” he said.

“But the history of regulation in the UK has always been about more than just the PSBs. In fact, the UK’s success has been that of the [entire] ecosystem, one that has been preserved through the careful shaping and pruning of the regulation around the massive public intervention that is the UK’s PSB network.”

“The role of PSBs is a foundational pillar in supporting and expanding the broader ecosystem. Within that, the continued success and cultivation of our independent sector [is also key], a decisive shift led by those in this room to a more representative and inclusive industry, which enables new voices from every different background and every community in the UK to be heard.”

On the topic of the representation of diversity and inclusion across the UK production industry, McOwen Wilson said that all companies, including YouTube, were failing to accurately represent society.

“None of us is delivering the audience that represents our country. None of us is doing well on any dimension of diversity. Collectively, we must shift that both for our audiences and in the talent that we have behind the cameras and in front of the cameras,” he said.

“Representative talent, a modern creative Briton, embracing the reality of the challenge that in a world where anybody with talent today, with a creative idea and with a broadband connexion, can build themselves an audience to rival that of many of our major channels. We must ensure that representation and equality of opportunity is baked in for all, or we will miss the opportunity to work with that talent. It cannot be sprinkled on top as diversity’s dressing, it must be in the cake mix as representation for all.”

Finally, McOwen Wilson called on producers to accept change, particularly within the shifting digital landscape, but said this was “not a rejection of linear television.”

“My message is about embracing the non-linear, accepting that this is consumer choice that improves their lives, that adds to their entertainment education or informational experiences. Seeing online as a headwind to be beaten leaves the glass always half empty and getting emptier on demand. Consumption is a consumer-driven tailwind, one that we have known is coming for well over a decade and one that we must ensure our industry and our UK ecosystem can take full advantage of. We are leaders and we should err on the side of leadership,” he added.


Please wait...