Channel 4 increases budget by axing jobs

Channel 4 is shedding up to a fifth of its workforce, including some members of its sales department, but is vowing to reinvest the money saved on overheads into its programme schedule.

Unveiling Channel 4's winter programme schedule, its chief executive, Mark Thompson, announced that the 2003 programme budget would be £430 million, an increase of 4 per cent on last year.

The majority of this increased budget will come from redundancies. Thompson said: "Channel 4 can only generate additional investment by increasing its revenues or reducing its cost base. Some jobs will be lost to deliver this fresh investment but every penny we can transfer from overheads to the screen means a better, richer service to our viewers."

The channel is embarking on a consultation period with its staff at the end of this week. The move reinforces Thompson's promise at August's Edinburgh TV Festival that he would reduce the station's overheads by 30 per cent on 2000. Channel 4 has recently experienced a miserable time in the ratings war with impacts across all its main trading experiencing double-digit declines. Its share of youth and upmarket audiences has fallen dramatically with the growth of multi-channel viewing, the resurgent BBC and improvements to Five's schedule.

Thompson said: "This is the first significant increase in Channel 4's annual programme budget since 2000. We are already making good on our promise to make the main Channel 4 service the priority for fresh creative and financial investment, ahead of our digital business."