THE managing director of a Scottish production company has said Channel 4 changing its quota for the sector north of the Border would be “transformational”.

It comes after we told of the anger from screen agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that Ofcom is recommending a new London quota and the renewal of a 91% Channel 4 production quota for England.

That would mean just 9% is allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, which Scottish Culture Secretary Angus Robertson (below) has described as an outrage.

The National: Undated handout photo issued by the Scottish Parliament of Culture Secretary Angus Robertson at the Scottish Government EU paper launch at Queen Margaret University to mark International Students Day. Issue date: Friday November 17, 2023. PA Photo. See

The National has spoken with both the director of Screen Scotland David Smith and the managing director of Scottish production company Two Rivers Media Alan Clements on the campaign to have the quota changed.

Why does the Channel 4 quota need to change?

Smith explained that Screen Scotland is concerned about the proposals, with the organisation previously releasing a statement alongside Northern Ireland Screen and Creative Wales.

He said that the agencies want to see Channel 4 spend at least 16% of its annual programme budget outside of England, with 8% overall spent in Scotland.

“Both the BBC and Channel 4 are publicly owned. Both are required, through regulation, to deliver programmes that are representative of the whole of the UK, and to contribute to the creative economies of all four home nations,” he explained.

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“As a result, the BBC spends 16% of its annual new programme budget outside of England with half of that required to be spent in Scotland, in line with Scotland’s share of UK population.”

He added that the BBC “has met if not exceeded” this requirement now for almost fifteen years.

At the moment, Tory peer Stephanie Fraser is bidding to change a media bill so that 8% of Channel 4’s programme budget is spent in Scotland – so its effectively treated the same as the BBC. However, it’s unknown exactly when this will be put before Parliament again.

Why should Scotland's spend match its population share?

Smith explains that the Scottish screen sector is in a “much more positive place than it was pre-pandemic”.

We told last year how research conducted by Saffery Champness and Nordcity for Screen Scotland showed spending in the sector increased by 55% between 2019 and 2021.

However, Smith added that growth “is not uniform” and that “while UK broadcasters still provide around 50% of all sums spent on film and TV production in Scotland, we have seen a fall in levels of production for factual TV”.

He added: “The fall in TV advertising revenue, the move towards online viewing and away from a linear schedule mean that most industry analysts expect to see fewer commissions in the future, with production spent focused on bigger, more impactful projects that can compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ for attention.

“That’s why it is vital that right now, as Ofcom agrees the terms of Channel 4’s licence to broadcast for the ten years to 2034, we make the case that Channel 4’s budget – raised across the UK by the monetisation of viewer data and ad revenues – is spent across the UK and for all the UK.”

The view from the production side

Clements is the managing director of Two Rivers Media, a production company based in Glasgow.

Its latest project, Barbie Uncovered – which explores the creation story of the iconic brand – is set to air on March 27 on Sky Documentaries.

Speaking to The National, Clements said that changing the proposals to 8% for Scotland specifically could be “transformational”.

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“You don’t come into the business to be entitled to a quota, but I think it would focus the mind of commissioning editors who are largely based in London,” he says.

“It’s more likely a drink after a meeting where an idea is developed into a show rather than a formal pitch over Zoom and when you’re 400 miles from the centre of power, quotas can be a useful way of focusing the mind.”

He adds that creating more content in Scotland could only be a good thing for the future in terms of job creation and opportunities.

“They [Channel 4] need to be thinking about the broader health of the production sector because they want a plurality of voices on their programme,” he says.

“I’ve spent more days than I care to mention on planes and trains to London. I accept that’s part of the occupational hazard and nobody minds that or resents it but it would be great for my kids’ generation to say they can create successful and international careers in Scotland.

“It’s great if they want to go to London, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t feel obliged so they need to further their career.”

What’s the response been?

Writing on social media on Tuesday, Scotland’s Culture Secretary said that he met with Ofcom’s chief executive to stress how “totally unacceptable” it would be for Channel 4 to secure a 91% England-only production quota.

A spokesperson for Ofcom previously said: “We will carefully consider all responses to our consultation before publishing our final decision this summer.”

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A spokesperson for Channel 4 previously said: “Channel 4 is fully committed to driving growth and investment in the nations and regions and has made demonstrable progress over recent years.

"Whilst we of course look to ensure that our commissioning spend benefits all three devolved nations, no commercial broadcaster, including Channel 4, has nominal or voluntary quota for the individual nations.

“We are fully committed to the nations and regions – our 4 All The UK strategy has introduced regional hubs, creating more than 500 roles out of London with a commitment to reach 600 by 2025; we have voluntarily increased our nations and regions commissioning quota from 35% to 50%; we have worked with screen agencies across the UK to introduce bespoke commissioning development initiatives; we have invested millions in the nations and regions through our 4Skills programme delivering 57,000 training, learning and development opportunities in 2023.

"These interventions have seen Channel 4’s out of London commissioning spend steadily increase over the licence period to a record £228m in 2022.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: "We will carefully consider all responses to our consultation before publishing our final decision this summer."