The Great British Bake Off’s move to Channel 4 was “not a snatch” from the BBC, the C4 chief executive has said as he defended its acquisition.
David Abraham told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that “many people prefer the show in its new guise” citing audience feedback and media reaction as evidence.
“That’s obviously subjective, but I think it has been a successful transfer,” he added.
The outgoing chief executive called Bake Off a “commercial hit” and said it was helping to pay for “other parts that are not profitable”, adding that advertising revenue from Bake Off was “essentially paying for Channel 4 News”.
Mr Abraham – who is leaving his role at the channel next week after seven years – challenged claims from committee member Rebecca Pow, Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, that they had pinched the popular baking competition from the BBC.
“We didn’t steal Bake Off from the BBC… We only intervened at the point the decision was being made to leave the BBC. This was not a snatch from the BBC. This was a consequence of market forces at play,” he added.
Ms Pow challenged Mr Abraham over the channel failing to refresh or innovate the show and labelled the new-look presenting and judging team “old hat”.
Sitting alongside Mr Abraham, the channel’s chairman Charles Gurassa defended the reported £75 million acquisition of “the biggest show on television”, saying millions of pounds of advertising money would have gone to rival channels if they had not bid for the show.
Bake Off’s first episode on Channel 4 was watched by 9.5 million viewers.
The station’s news output also came under scrutiny over an incorrect report which claimed a radical preacher who was in prison was responsible for the Westminster terrorist attack in April.
Chair of the committee Damian Collins MP asked if they would consider cutting ties with ITN who produce the channel’s news output if a similar error occurred again.
“If we were to see this happening again that would be the nature of the conversation. But we also have confidence in what they are doing,” Mr Abraham replied.
MPs also quizzed the pair on Government plans to move Channel 4 away from London which were included in the Conservative Party manifesto but have been greeted with reluctance from the station.
Mr Gurassa said: “We want to put together a plan that delivers the best we can for the nations and regions sustainably, meaningfully and in a balanced way … Full or very substantial relocation will not deliver that.”