LONDON – Three of Channel 4's most senior former executives have unleashed a scathing attack on the broadcaster for screening 'crap' programmes like 'Big Brother' and 'Wife Swap'.
The comments were made by: Sir Jeremy Isaacs; Channel 4's first chief executive; Vanni Treves, who stood down as chairman this year; and Sir Michael Bishop; a former chairman and deputy chairman.
They went on to attack the channel for being dangerously close to failing its public service remit, choosing cheap reality programmes in favour of quality drama and documentaries.
Two of the three executives called on the broadcaster to drop its most commercially viable show 'Big Brother', because they believed it has run its course and appeals exclusively to younger viewers.
In the interview with The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, Sir Jeremy Isaacs said it had been a terrible mistake to concentrate too single-mindedly on the support of just one section of the British public.
"There is a deep need for the channel to broaden its support beyond programmes like 'Big Brother' and the kind of audience that attracts.
"It is simply absurd for a channel, which was launched with such a broad remit, to concentrate on just young people. A new chief executive and chairman are in place and I am confident they will want to work on achieving that widespread appeal."
Treves recalls a meeting with Tim Gardam, the channel's then director of programmes, in which he said asked the director why they were still carrying on with 'Big Brother'.
"Tim, why are we going on with 'Big Brother'? I know it's very successful but it is crap," Treves said.
Gardam replied: "Ah, yes, but what you have to understand is it is very high quality crap."
Treves said that the channel did have a cutting edge in documentaries and current affairs, which it no longer has.
"Channel 4 does not have the same interest in making films and commissioning original material that it used to have."
Channel 4 has already started advertising for sponsors for 'Big Brother 6' next year and, despite complaints from viewers about a drunken fight between contestants in this year's show, chief executive Andy Duncan will definitely be going ahead with the series.
A spokesman for Channel 4 defended the station's programming and said that despite what the executives have said, Channel 4 was showing more dramas and documentaries than ever before.
He said: "We have a higher ABC1 figure than BBC Two, even though we do not get a penny in public subsidy.
"There will always be a debate about whether Channel 4 has got the balance right between different types of programmes. We believe we are providing quality programmes for a wide cross section of the audience."
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