What I would do if I were chairman of Channel 4...

Channel 4 is important. As super-choice permeates the country, it has stayed relevant. Good work has been done to define what it should be - and what it should not be.

Richard Eyre is not chairman of Channel 4
Richard Eyre is not chairman of Channel 4

"Next on 4" contains a rationale for the company and an argument for public funding, which I suspect will be dusted down around the time of the BBC's next licence-fee settlement in 2012.

Between now and then, Channel 4 must re-find its soul and connect it to a new body at the centre of a web of partnerships and alliances, translating its characteristic curiosity, optimism, confidence and contrariness into new areas of public service.

To the Reithian mantra of "educate, entertain and inform", it must add "engage" (participation) and "enable" (provision of new services). Meanwhile, it must protect its core. The "born in the '80s" kids who are now 25 have grown up with the channel. Without affectation, it now has to be relevant to the '90s kids too, through new young commissioners who can instinctively express the brand's persona in contemporary language and dress. People who don't think it's all about television.

Everything hinges around maintaining the channel's point - reinvigorating and communicating its position at the heart of our culture as a tester of ideas, risking new talent. Inquisitively sceptical; somehow outside the system, but a brilliant observer of it.

It's certainly not about ratings, for all their utility as a quick and easy performance measure. Aim at winning audiences and you might succeed. Aim at fascinating, inspiring and surprising and you will win audiences, but also a raison d'être.

Without such distinctiveness, there is no argument for independence and, above all, Channel 4 must stay independent. "Why not privatise?" say the abacus brigade, "and safeguard the remit with regulation". You can't. I've run regulated media companies for almost 20 years and you get very good at working away at regulations until they stop obstructing what you want to do. Shareholders want dividends - look at ITV.

Who cares? Well, a privatised Channel 4 would focus its competitive energy not on the BBC, but on ITV, thus losing its unique purpose in the cosmos.

Channel 4 is Ben & Jerry's, Innocent, Virgin Atlantic, the little one that does it differently to make the big one work harder.
I wish the new chairman Terry Burns great wisdom. He is curator of a national treasure.

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