C4’s Andy Duncan trousers £1.4m – is this a payment for failure?

Well it is public money after all so it’s reasonable to ask the question.

Recently-departed Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan ‘earned’ the above sum in the last year through salary, payment of his one year rolling contract plus bonus and pension payments.

But what did Duncan, formerly the BBC’s top marketing executive and before that at Unilever, achieve at C4?

His strategy, to win Government money from the BBC by top slicing the licence fee, demonstrably failed.

The reason C4 needed the money was that its ratings slipped under his regime (and that of generously-rewarded programme boss Kevin Lygo) and it was no longer able to charge advertisers a stonking premium for reaching younger viewers.

And its programming was nothing to write home about either, becoming dangerously dependent on flagging reality show Big Brother, both for audience and for the revenue from viewers phoning in their votes for evictions from the Big Brother house.

He did take the decision to make the channel’s film stations free, which is viewed as sensible, although this hardly served to fill C4’s coffers either.

C4’s importance in the digital era has reduced and you can’t blame Duncan for that. The recession was hardly his fault either.

But the main problem with C4 is that it still plays host to scores of commissioning this-that-and-the-others, all on handsome wages, although it doesn’t make any programmes of its own.

New boss David Abraham, formerly of the St Luke’s agency, inherits a station that has arguably lost its way. In that context its parting present to Duncan is decidedly generous.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.