Channel 4 has won the coveted channel of the year award at the Edinburgh TV Festival awards – despite the looming threat of privatisation.
Earlier this year, Culture Minister Nadine Dorries announced that she would be pushing ahead with the sale, claiming that government ownership of the channel was “holding it back” from competing with streaming giants including Netflix and Amazon.
At the time, shadow Labour culture minister Lucy Powell called the move “cultural vandalism”.
Channel 4 is state-owned and gets no public funding. It receives the majority of its revenue from advertising.
Speaking to Sky News after the award was announced, Channel 4 director of content and programming Ian Katz said the win felt “like great recognition for what’s been a pretty extraordinary year on the channel with one or two distractions”.
It was the second year running that the public service broadcaster (PSB) – which celebrates its 40th birthday this year – has won the TV festival’s coveted best channel award. It also took five other prizes.
Referencing the government threat of privatisation, Mr Katz said: “Everyone can see the value that we bring to this country, whether it’s economic value to the production sector, whether it’s levelling up the country, whether it’s making the kind of innovative, original representative programs that the rest of the broadcasting streaming sector doesn’t do… it’s really important that we that we continue to do that, whatever our ownership model.”
Calling this a “golden age of television”, he added: “PSBs in this country are doing a brilliant job.”
He said this was highlighted in recently released OFCOM figures which show that 30% of UK Netflix viewing and 50% of in the UK Amazon viewing is to PSB shows.
Mr Katz also said that some of TVs biggest moments this year – including the Women’s Euro 2022 tournament – had been broadcast on public service broadcasters.
He concluded: “As a group of broadcasters, we need to be much more front-footed about what we bring to this society and the value that our viewers attach to us, because we are making television that [people] really care about and that bring them together and that people are watching.”
On Wednesday, creative leader and former BBC chief creative officer Pat Younge told Sky News “the main challenges British broadcasters face at the moment in terms of the BBC and Channel 4 is the government”.
Speaking at an earlier festival session discussing the future of public service broadcasting, Mr Younge went on to say that we are dealing with a “post-truth, post-evidence government who are just tearing up the rule book”, adding, “we need to find new ways to engage with the beast that we’re confronted with”.
The Edinburgh TV awards, which were presented by comedian Sophie Duker, celebrated some of the best TV that has been made in the UK and abroad, over the last 12 months.
Other Channel 4 wins included the best presenter category which went to The Big Breakfast’s AJ Odudu and Mo Gilligan as well as the breakthrough presenter which was presented to Munya Chawawa for Complaints Welcome.
Jodie Comer also won the best TV actor in a drama award for her heart wrenching performance in Jack Thorne’s critically acclaimed Channel 4 drama Help.
Best documentary went to Sky’s The Return: Life After ISIS, directed and produced by Alba Sotorra. The film follows British-born Shamima Begum and US-born Hoda Muthana as they leave Islamic State and attempt to return to their countries.
Philomena Cunk star Diane Morgan received a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her extensive body of work, ranging from Ricky Gervais’ After Life to Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe.
The Edinburgh Television Festival 2022 runs from Wednesday 24 August to Friday 26 August, with Sky News as its official media partner.
Celebrities including Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis, Succession star Brian Cox and Homeland actor David Harewood also spoke at the festival, and on Wednesday, ex-BBC journalist Emily Maitlis gave the flagship MacTaggart lecture, calling out what she referred to as “Tory cronyism at heart of the BBC”.
Full list of Edinburgh TV Festival award winners:
Best Comedy Series – Sex Education
Best Documentary – The Return: Life After ISIS
Best Drama – The Responder
Best Entertainment Series – The Lateish Show With Mo Gilligan
Best International Drama – Pachinko
Best On Demand Service – BBC iPlayer
Best Popular Factual Series – Uprising
Best TV Actor – Comedy – Daisy Haggard in Back To Life
Best TV Actor – Drama – Jodie Comer in Help
Best TV Presenter – AJ Odudu & Mo Gilligan for The Big Breakfast
Breakthrough Talent – Actor – Danielle Macdonald
Breakthrough Talent – Presenter – Munya Chawawa
Channel of the Year – Channel 4
Climate Impact Award – Joe Lycett Vs the Oil Giant
Production Company of the Year – Merman Television
Small Indie of the Year – Firecrest Films
Global Success Award – ITV Studios
Variety Outstanding Achievement Award – Diane Morgan
TV Moment of the Year – Heartstopper: Charlie and Nick’s First Kiss
Ones to Watch / Random Acts Live Pitch – Alex Rodrigues, Thanks Boss