Media Perspective: Why Channel 4 has made a smart move in hiring Abraham

The new Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, has history with the channel.

Those with long memories will remember St Luke's, the documentary screened in 1999 which offered a fly-on-the-wall insight into the advertising agency that was co-founded by Abraham and his business partner Andy Law.

As the documentary was screened at close to midnight on a Monday evening in July, it failed to attract a mass audience on a par with the later C4 hit Big Brother. Yet it provided several instances of the painful, toe-curling reality TV that was to become C4's hallmark throughout the ensuing decade. Despite this, the Abraham of the St Luke's days seemed like a focused, intensely intelligent and polite bloke who was passionate about his agency. An agency that espoused collective values and was almost painfully New Labour at just the right time.

Since leaving St Luke's in 2001, Abraham has reinvented himself as a TV executive, first at the US corporation Discovery and, more recently, as the chief executive of UKTV. His appointment has attracted a lukewarm response in some quarters - critics arguing that it's not an imaginative choice and that the appointment of a man, despite there being women on the shortlist for the role, continues C4's depressing history of selecting middle-aged, middle-class white men to take charge.

But I reckon Abraham's £490,000 salary represents a good investment for the broadcaster because of his reputation as a change agent. He launched an independent ad agency in the face of network dominance, then decamped for a new career in TV when a move to another ad agency seemed more obvious. And then, even if it hasn't proved entirely successful as yet, he dragged UKTV kicking and screaming into a new era, with a rebrand of its channels spearheaded by the launch of Dave on Freeview.

His commercial experience, and inside knowledge of UKTV and its joint owner BBC Worldwide, counts in his favour as C4 attempts to sort out its future model, a model that could even involve the renewal of talks with BBC Worldwide and, almost certainly, a key role in the consolidation of TV sales houses. But Abraham should be aware that despite C4's strong commercial position - its share of TV ad revenue remains strong at around 25 per cent and few advertisers dare to leave it off their schedules - there are some twitchy advertisers watching on from the sidelines.

The broadcaster has been able to consolidate its position in the ad market recently but this could change if it continues to offer so little that is inspiring in terms of programming and strategic ambition. Abraham needs to instil wit and imagination and to lead it out fighting as the challenging broadcaster for the decade ahead.

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