Screen Scotland, Creative Wales, and Northern Ireland Screen Issue Joint Response to Media Bill

Creative Wales, Screen Scotland, and Northern Ireland Screen welcome Lord Parkinson’s acknowledgement of the strength of feeling across the UK regarding Channel 4’s “out of England” quota, and his confirmation that the UK Government looks forward to the outcome of the C4 licence process addressing the sector’s concerns. 

This response follows comments made by Lord Parkinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DCMS, at the House of Lords’ debate on the Media Bill on 20 May 2024.

Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Creative Wales believe it is essential that any new quota agreed by Ofcom for C4 reflects each home nation’s share of the UK population and remain concerned that C4 will continue its current practice and treat any new quota as a ceiling, and not as a minimum target. 

Lord Parkinson’s response to Baroness Fraser’s proposed amendments, which would have required Ofcom to set minimum production quotas for Channel 4 that aligned with UK population shares, stated, “The Government will continue our broad support for the screen industries across the United Kingdom ... When it comes to our public service broadcasters’ contribution to that goal, we believe that the existing system of regional production quotas, which, as I say, our public service broadcasters can and do exceed—some of them significantly—remains the best way to continue to drive the growth that we have seen in recent years in every part of the UK.” 

Northern Ireland Screen, Creative Wales and Screen Scotland will continue to push OFCOM to increase Channel 4’s ‘Outside of England’ commissioning quota to 16%+, and to introduce individual quotas for each UK nation in line with those accepted by the BBC since 2009. We will continue to highlight the evidence that C4 has consistently treated the current 9% “outside of England” quota as a commissioning threshold which is never materially exceeded. This effectively delivers a 91% C4 production quota for England, which we find to be an indefensible position for Channel 4 in the UK in 2024. 

Screen Scotland, Northern Ireland Screen and Creative Wales re-state that the current OFCOM proposals to maintain C4’s 9% out of England quota until 2034 contradicts Channel 4’s own ALL 4 the UK strategy. This states: “to truly fulfil our remit to stand up for diversity, take creative risks and inspire change, we knew we’d need to change too. We’d need to look and feel different, behave differently and most importantly, get outside the M25. It’s about representing a diversity of thought and opinions from across the UK, and across all of our content.” 

David Smith, Director of Screen Scotland, said: "Channel 4 and Ofcom have both resisted our characterisation of the current “outside of England” quota as being an effective 91% quota in favour of England. But the evidence PACT has provided – and which Channel 4 has not contradicted – is that the current C4 team see quotas for production outside of England as a hard number target, and not as a minimum. 16% of the UK population lives, works, and is monetised by C4 outside of England, but since the introduction of the 9% quota in 2020 Channel 4 has barely met it, commissioning 9.1% of its qualifying hours outside of England in 2022 and 9.3% in 2023.

"Channel 4 build in a small margin for error, but absolutely treat the agreed quota as a maximum, not to be exceeded to any significant extent. That is not in line with Lord Parkinson’s expectations, nor Ofcom’s and it fails C4’s own strategy to be for all of the UK.  

"We welcome C4’s recent commitment to a higher quota and more sustainable engagement across the UK nations. We believe a cultural shift in perspective within C4 is needed for it to be truly for all the UK, and that this change would be most usefully focused through quotas that map to population shares across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.”  

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen said: “I am pleased that OFCOM is doing the right thing and looking again at the nature and scale of Nations Quotas for C4.  It is also encouraging that C4 has indicated its intention to step beyond the low and arbitrary 9% quota for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the last 10 year license.  However, from a Northern Ireland perspective the evidence of the last 10 year license period demonstrates very clearly that no progress will have been made towards C4’s stated intention to be for all of the UK if individual national quotas are not imposed by OFCOM.”  

Gerwyn Evans, Deputy Director at Creative Wales said: “There is no doubt that the current Channel 4 quotas are not fair to Wales or its thriving screen sector. They go against much of what Creative Wales is working to achieve and would only serve to refocus a significant part of the UK’s TV production back to London and the South-East of England.  

“Wales needs and deserves a system that distributes productions much more fairly across the whole of the UK and enables us to keep growing and developing our indigenous production sector. Data on Channel 4’s investments in recent years highlight how quotas directly influence spending decisions. For the broadcaster to genuinely contribute to the creative economy in all parts of the UK, the quotas must be set at a fair and equitable level. 

"For us increased quotas would mean more productions made by companies based in Wales, more economic benefits to our supply chains and crucially more skills, training and work opportunities for creatives young and old who want to build long term careers and lives in Wales.” 

More information

About Northern Ireland Screen

Northern Ireland Screen is the national screen agency for Northern Ireland.  We are committed to maximising the economic, cultural and educational value of the screen industries for the benefit of Northern Ireland.  This goal is pursued through our mission to accelerate the development of a dynamic and sustainable screen industry and culture in Northern Ireland.

About Creative Wales

Creative Wales is a Welsh Government economic development agency established to promote and grow the creative industries in Wales.  

Our focus is to offer funding, support, and guidance across a range of sectors from TV and Film, Animation – including Immersive Tech, AR/VR – through to Games, Music, and Publishing - positioning Wales as one of the best places in the world for creative businesses to thrive.  

We are passionate about creating opportunities for people in the industry. Whether that’s entry-level training or developing and upskilling people already working in our creative sectors. We are committed to investing in people from a diverse range of backgrounds, whether they’re young people, newcomers to the industry or our talented and experienced workforce.  

From studio development to grassroots music venues, indie games developers and major international productions, we provide funding, specialist advice and help people within the industry to make connections that will nurture the development of creative projects of all sizes. We also actively promote sustainability, fair work, and equal opportunities for everyone working across our creative sectors.  

Whether we are supporting home-grown talent or working to attract international creative projects to Wales, our aim is always to strengthen the industry for the long term and create exciting and rewarding opportunities for future generations.  

Media contacts

Northern Ireland Screen: Mary McVey; [email protected] / 07789454044 

Screen Scotland: Eilidh Walker; [email protected] / 07545 402 064 

Creative Wales: Lynsey May; [email protected] / 07816 951153