Channel 5 boss dismisses Government calls for more ‘distinctively British’ TV

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Channel 5’s head of programming has rejected calls from ministers for more “distinctively British” TV shows, arguing the channel’s schedule is “not Government-led” and embraces a wide range of viewers.

Ben Frow questioned plans to make it a legal requirement for public broadcasters to preserve programmes that “could only have been made in the United Kingdom”.

He told The Times: “I don’t really know what the Government meant. My job is to look at the schedule, make sure there’s a nice variety and try to second guess the audience.

“I am viewer-led, I am not Government-led when it comes to creative ideas.”

He said Channel 5 has a record of producing shows that reflect British values, such as Our Yorkshire Farm and Coastal Devon & Cornwall With Michael Portillo.

The Government proposals, announced by then media minister John Whittingdale in September, have been criticised by actor David Tennant, who suggested they were an attempt to push for more politically favourable programming.

John Whittingdale
John Whittingdale (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Pointing to high viewing figures from different areas across the UK, including Yorkshire, the Midlands and Scotland, Mr Frow said Channel 5 is “of the people, for the people”.

“We’re not highfalutin, we’re not snooty, we don’t look down on our audience, we’re not patronising,” he said.

Mr Frow said other channels including the BBC and Channel 4 had started trying to target younger audiences, but his strategy is to appeal to “as many people as possible”.

It comes after ministers backed calls for God Save The Queen to be played more frequently by the BBC and other public broadcasters.

Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, told the Commons that airing the national anthem would provide a “great sense of unity and pride”, and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries described the suggestion as “fantastic”.

As the Government considers plans to sell Channel 4, with Channel 5’s owner Viacom tipped as a potential buyer, Mr Frow welcomed the possibility of another creative opportunity.

He said: “It wouldn’t be for me to decide about buying Channel 4… that said, I like any opportunity to be more creative.”

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