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Channel 4 to unveil deeper job cuts as ad downturn bites | Business News

Channel 4 will announce plans this week for deeper-than-expected job cuts amid a steep downturn in the broadcast advertising market.

Sky News has learnt that the state-owned broadcaster will say on Monday that it is cutting nearly 250 roles, a figure equating to just over 15% of its full-time workforce of more than 1,300 people.

Industry sources said this weekend that while the number of people being made redundant would be approximately 200, in line with earlier reports of the cost-cutting, close to an additional 50 roles were also being axed by chief executive Alex Mahon.

It is expected to be the biggest bloodletting in the history of Channel 4, which launched in 1982 and which came close to being privatised last year.

Ministers ultimately decided against selling the company despite having hired bankers from JP Morgan to oversee an auction.

This week’s job cuts will affect a range of departments at the Gogglebox and Great British Bake-Off producer.

Ms Mahon has described the ad market’s decline as “market shock territory” for the company.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said it was “a wholly commercially funded and self-reliant broadcaster known for producing iconoclastic programmes and generating enormous value for the UK creative economy”.

“Like every organisation, we are having to deal with an extremely uncertain economy in the short term and the need to accelerate our transformation to become a wholly digital public service broadcaster in the long term.

“As a result, we need to continue to divest from our linear channels business and simplify our operations to become a leaner organisation.”

Migrants cross English Channel to UK for first time in 2024 | UK News

Migrants crossing the English Channel to the UK have been reported for the first time in 2024.

Arrivals had not been recorded since 16 December, according to Home Office figures, with poor weather conditions potentially contributing to the lack of activity at sea.

It means there had been 27 days of no crossings until today.

This is the longest gap in small boat arrivals for just over five years.

It is also the first time no Channel crossings took place on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, for five years.

A group of people believed to be migrants were seen being brought to shore in Dover, Kent, this morning.

They were seen arriving in a Border Force vessel.

This means the number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began in 2018.

The provisional annual total for crossings in 2023 – 29,437 – is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022. But the 2023 figure is still the second highest annual total on record, above the figure for 2021 (28,526).

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A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, in the early hours of this morning
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The suspected migrants were taken ashore on a Border Force vessel

The 27 day period of no crossings before today is the longest since a hiatus of 48 days between 2 September and 19 October 2018, government data shows.

Home Secretary James Cleverly insisted the weather was not a “contributory factor” to falling migrant crossings when questioned last week, highlighting how the number of good sailing days recorded by officials for the year was only four fewer than the previous period.

He claimed the decrease was instead because of co-operation with Europe, disrupting the supply chain of engines and boats, and “going after the money of these people smugglers”.

The government argued the figures were evidence of the UK’s £480m agreement with France to beef up efforts to stop migrants making the journey starting to pay off and the effectiveness of a fast-track returns deal struck with Albania.

But the Immigration Services Union, which represents border staff, said the drop in arrivals was likely to be a “glitch”, with “higher numbers” of Channel crossings expected this year.

Mr Cleverly also set himself a target of meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s “stop the boats” pledge by the end of the year – a deadline Downing Street later refused to repeat.

Two migrants found dead in Channel after trying to reach UK in small boat | World News

Two migrants have died in the English Channel after trying to reach the UK from France.

A man and a woman, both believed to be in their 30s, were found lifeless at around 1.30pm on Wednesday near Boulogne-Sur-Mer, the local prosecutor told Le Monde.

They were among 60 people found on board a dinghy that had got into distress.

Several of the group had fallen into the sea and were suffering from hypothermia when they were brought to shore for treatment.

But medics were unable to save the two people found unresponsive.

They are the seventh and eighth migrants to die at sea off the French coast so far this year.

The six others – all from Afghanistan and aged between 21 and 34 – lost their lives on 12 August.

Reports of the newest deaths come ahead of the two-year anniversary of the single greatest loss of life in the Channel in recent history when 27 migrants drowned on 24 November 2021.

At least 27,708 people have crossed to the UK aboard small boats so far this year, according to government data compiled and analysed by Sky News.

This is 34% lower than at the same time in 2022, when 42,206 people had succeeded in making the dangerous journey.

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Despite the overall number of people making the life-threatening trip in 2023 being lower than last year, the number of people being packed aboard each boat has increased – a sign that smugglers are seeking to make more profit, at the expense of safety.

An average of almost 49 people have been found on board each boat that made it to the UK so far this year. It was 41 per boat last year and just 13 in 2020.

On Thursday, revised official figures showed that net migration to the UK in 2022 was at a record high of 745,000.

Channel crossings: Facebook and TikTok team up with police to crack down on people smugglers | UK News

Facebook, TikTok and Twitter will team up with UK law enforcement to crack down on posts by people smugglers encouraging migrants to cross the English Channel, the government says.

Rishi Sunak, who has made cutting the number of small boats arriving on UK shores one of his “five pledges”, said the new partnerships with various social media companies will tackle attempts to “lure” people into paying to make the perilous journey.

Group discounts, free spaces for children and offers of false documents are among the posts the prime minister wants removed to help achieve his promise to “stop the boats”.

Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous trip across the Dover Strait in small boats so far this year, according to official data compiled and analysed by Sky News.

This is around 15% less than the same time last year, the data suggests.

The voluntary partnership between social media firms and the National Crime Agency will seek to redirect people away from such content in the same way as is used to tackle content promoting extremism or eating disorders.

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Plans to house asylum seekers in tents

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as TikTok and X, formally known as Twitter, have all signed up to the plans, Downing Street said.

More on Migrant Crossings

It comes as controversy over plans to house asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge continues.

Mr Sunak said: “To stop the boats, we have to tackle the business model of vile people smugglers at source.

“That means clamping down on their attempts to lure people into making these illegal crossings and profit from putting lives at risk.

“This new commitment from tech firms will see us redouble our efforts to fight back against these criminals, working together to shut down their vile trade.”

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Labour said the action was “too little, too late” and the Liberal Democrats said it amounted to “tinkering around the edges”.

Kicking off a “small boats week” of linked announcements, Number 10 said the “legacy” backlog of asylum applications made before the end of June 2022 has been reduced by a third since December.

But Labour claimed it will take until 2036 to clear the existing backlog for removals of failed asylum seekers, with nearly 40,000 people awaiting removal in the latest figures.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was “just deluded” for the Conservatives to “boast about progress on tackling the Tories’ asylum chaos”.

Iain Hughes: Body found of firefighter attempting cross Channel charity swim | UK News

The body of a firefighter who disappeared more than a month ago as he attempted to swim the English Channel for charity has been found.

Iain Hughes, crew manager at Wednesbury fire station, West Midlands, set off from the Kent coast on the morning of 20 June accompanied by a support boat but went missing later that day in French waters.

The disappearance of the 42-year-old father-of-two triggered an extensive search by French and Belgian authorities which was later called off.

Iain Hughes. Pic: Iain Hughes
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Colleagues have described the 42-year-old’s death as ‘devastating’. Pic: Iain Hughes

West Midlands Fire Service said on Friday the body of a swimmer found in waters off Belgium has been formally identified as Mr Hughes.

In a statement released through the fire service, Mr Hughes’ family said they “miss him more than words can ever say”.

They said: “Our lives were shattered when Iain went missing. He was our world. The news that his body had been found was unbearable. It still is. We miss him more than words can ever say.

“We are proud of Iain for so many reasons.

“He put his heart and soul into training for the swim, but that was Iain – determined to help and support others.”

Mr Hughes had been attempting to raise £21,000 – £1,000 for every mile of his swim – for the British Heart Foundation, The Fire Fighters Charity and the Midlands Air Ambulance.

To date his fundraiser had far exceeded this target by raising more than £56,000.

Iain Hughes. Pic: Iain Hughes
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Mr Hughes was ‘determined to help and support others’. Pic: Iain Hughes

‘Heartbreaking’

Mr Hughes’ family added: “It is lovely to see how much money has been raised for his three charities, but also heartbreaking that he will never know the total.

“Thank you to everyone who has donated and who is still raising money.

“We also want to send our thanks and love to everyone who has been there for us these past few weeks.

“The photo we are releasing sums up the Iain we loved.”

Flags to fly at half-mast

West Midlands Fire Service chief fire officer Wayne Brown said it is “devastating news” and that “Iain’s family are foremost in our thoughts at this distressing time”.

He added: “I know that many people have been affected by Iain’s disappearance.

“We, in turn, have been touched by the hundreds of kind messages we have received, and the overwhelming response to Iain’s fundraising page. Thank you.”

West Midlands Fire Service said flags at its sites will fly at half-mast until sunset on Friday as a mark of respect to Mr Hughes.

He joined West Midlands Fire Service in 1999, at the age of 19.

UK government ‘avoiding asylum responsibilities’ with new proposals to clamp down on Channel migrant crossings, says human rights group | UK News

The UK government is “avoiding the asylum responsibilities it expects others to take” with new plans to clamp down on small boat crossings, a human rights group has said.

Refugee charities have also described the plans as “costly and unworkable” and said they “promise nothing but more demonisation and punishment” of asylum seekers.

It comes as Home Secretary Suella Braverman is set to publish long-promised legislation as early as Tuesday.

A ban on people who come to the UK illegally from claiming asylum is believed to be among the proposals being put forward in a new Illegal Migration Bill.

Government minister Chris Heaton-Harris said on Sunday that the legislation will ensure people who come to the UK illegally “are returned very quickly” or to another country such as Rwanda.

Rishi Sunak has made stopping Channel migrant crossings one of his five priorities in office, promising to introduce new laws to “make sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed”.

Several Tory MPs welcomed the news that a new bill was imminent, with Tory MP Danny Kruger calling it a “serious plan” on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.

More on Migrant Crossings

But the plans have been criticised, including by Labour, who have accused the government of “recycling the same rhetoric and failure”.

Suella Braverman
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Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Conservatives are responsible for an abysmal failure to tackle the huge increase in dangerous small boat crossings and the criminal gangs who are putting lives at risk and undermining border security.

“Ministers have made countless claims and promises yet the facts show their last law badly failed and made things worse.”

She said Labour was calling for a major new cross-border police unit to go after the criminal gangs, fast track asylum decisions and returns, and urged the government to reach “proper return agreements” with France and other countries, including Belgium.

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The Liberal Democrats said ministers had drawn up “another half-baked plan”, while on Sunday, trade unions accused the government of being “complicit” in a rise in far-right organised violence and intimidation against refugees.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said plans to deny those crossing in small boats the ability to claim asylum would “shatter the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of the path they have taken to reach our shores”.

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Why do migrants cross the Channel?

He also said the plans would “add more cost and chaos to the system”.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, accused the government of presenting “the very same disastrous plan to simply avoid the asylum responsibilities it expects others to take”.

He also said the government’s proposals “promise nothing but more demonisation and punishment of people fleeing conflict and persecution who dare to seek asylum in the UK by means to which government has chosen to restrict them.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday vowed to put an end to “immoral” illegal migration.

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Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said: “Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade.

“I’m determined to deliver on my promise to stop the boats.

“So make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.”

A report in The Sunday Times said the Home Office had drawn up two plans to stop people arriving via small boats from claiming asylum – either withdrawing the right to appeal against automatic exclusion from the asylum system, or only allowing them to appeal after they have been deported.

A third proposal would prevent people from using the Human Rights Act to prevent their deportations, such as by claiming their right to family life.

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Heaton-Harris on PM’s proposed new laws on migrant crossings

The legislation could also see a duty placed on the home secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable” anyone who arrives on a small boat, either to Rwanda or a “safe third country”.

Cabinet minister Chris Heaton-Harris told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that the new laws would be “very black and white” and “safe and legal routes are certainly the way forward”.

However, questions have been raised about how any such legislation, based on the details known so far, could be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government’s previous Rwanda scheme became mired in legal challenges, with so far no flights carrying migrants to the Rwandan capital Kigali departing.

The latest Home Office figures show 2,950 migrants have crossed the Channel already this year, while a record 45,756 migrants were recorded to have arrived in the UK last year.

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‘People smuggling is just another job’

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has been clear that if you arrive in the UK illegally, you should not be allowed to stay.

“We will shortly introduce legislation which will ensure that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly returned to their home country or a safe third country.

“Our work with France is also vital to tackling the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings. We share a determination to tackle this issue together, head-on, to stop the boats.”

Lifeboats launched after fire breaks out on passenger ferry in the Channel | UK News

Three lifeboats have been scrambled from Kent to a ferry in the English Channel after a fire broke out on board.

The Isle of Innisfree was around halfway across the Channel when the blaze broke out in the engine room.

There were 183 people on board in total – 94 passengers and 89 crew members. Everyone is safe and accounted for.

The Isle of Innisfree in the middle of the image, surrounded by RNLI boats. Pic: MarineTraffic
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The Isle of Innisfree in the middle of the image, surrounded by RNLI boats. Pic: MarineTraffic

A French tug boat has also been despatched to the scene.

A spokesman for Irish Ferries said: “Irish Ferries can confirm that this evening, the crew on board its ship the Isle of Innisfree were alerted to a small fire in the ship’s engine room while the ship was sailing from Dover to Calais.

“Irish Ferries crews train regularly to deal with incidents at sea, and the company has put its training into action and the fire has been extinguished.

“The Coastguard has been informed and despatched 3 RNLI lifeboats as a precautionary measure.

“The vessel is currently safely at anchor, and as the situation is stable, no emergency assistance is expected to be required.”

HM Coastguard said it “was alerted just after 17:30 today (3 March) to a fire in the engine room of a ferry that was mid-way from Dover to Calais.”

It continued: “The vessel has confirmed that the fire has been extinguished, but it is experiencing technical issues.

“The incident is ongoing.”

Simpsons episode where Homer goes on strike shown by Channel 4 on ‘Walkout Wednesday’ | UK News

Channel 4 has said its showing of a Simpsons episode centred on workers’ rights on the biggest day of strike action in a decade was a coincidence. 

The broadcaster received praise online for showing the episode, which sees Homer Simpson challenge Mr Burns over the employees’ dental plan, which culminates in a strike at the power plant.

The season four episode called Last Exit To Springfield is widely regarded as one of the show’s best.

Its showing at 6pm on Wednesday came after about half a million workers went on strike in increasingly bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

“Walkout Wednesday” saw thousands of schools closed due to action by the National Education Union and picket lines mounted outside railway stations, schools, government departments and universities across the country.

On Twitter, viewers commended Channel 4 for the inadvertent support for the strikes.

“The Simpsons. Channel 4. Very apt episode considering the amount of strikes taking place,” tweeted Alex Ramsden.

“Channel 4 playing the strike ep of the Simpsons. Solidarity,” wrote Twitter user Hannah Fretwell.

“Well done Channel 4 for putting on The Simpsons episode where all the power plant workers go on strike!” added a Twitter user called Jim.

Around 500 migrants crossed Channel to UK today | UK News

Around 500 people crossed from France to England across the Channel today, according to Sky sources.

Groups of people wearing life jackets and some wrapped in blankets were pictured being brought into Dover, Kent, on a Border Force boat.

A record 45,728 made the crossing on small boats last year, up more than 60% on the previous year.

Government figures show 592 migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year, but the activity was only recorded on three days in January.

Some 1,339 made the journey in the first month of 2022.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel, following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Wednesday January 25, 2023.

It comes as MPs heard flights sending migrants to Rwanda may not take place until later this year at the earliest amid ongoing legal action.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the government still hopes to restart flights “as soon as possible”, but said it was “right” to wait until court appeals have concluded.

Asked when the government hopes to restart flights to Rwanda, Mr Jenrick told MPs: “As soon as possible. It obviously remains the government’s policy. We see it as an absolutely critical way of deterring people from making the dangerous crossing and changing the business model of the people smugglers.”

The migrants arrived in Dover, Kent
The migrants boarded a coach at the immigration processing centre in Kent

High Court judges ruled the policy was lawful last month, but so far efforts to launch it have been mired by legal action.

Mr Jenrick said an appeal “will be heard later this year” and added: “We look forward to defending the government’s position once again as robustly as possible and hope, and expect, that we’ll have a similar outcome in the Court of Appeal.”

Asked to confirm if the government was waiting for the appeal to conclude before any flights will start again, he said: “Yes. It’s right that we await to the outcome of the British courts… then obviously the government will decide how to proceed once we have the final judgment.”

‘TikTok traffickers’ who use videos to advertise Channel crossings must face criminal action – MP | Politics News

“TikTok traffickers” who use social media to advertise small boat crossings to migrants must face criminal penalties, ministers have been told.

Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke believes the advertising of Channel crossings on networks such as TikTok and Facebook should be recognised as a crime.

Speaking during a Commons debate on the Online Safety Bill, the Dover MP – whose constituency is at the forefront of the UK’s migration crisis – suggested criminalising such online promotions would save lives and help stem the business model of trafficking groups.

Ms Elphicke highlighted the “massive increase in the number of Albanians crossing the Channel in small boats” – and said it had become “easy to find criminal gangs posting in Albanian on TikTok with videos showing cheery migrants with thumbs up on dinghies scooting across the Channel and motoring into Britain with ease”.

People shout at Member of Parliament (MP) for Dover Natalie Elphicke during a protest following an announcement made by P&O Ferries, in Dover, Britain, March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
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Natalie Elphicke

Urging the Commons to back her amendment to the bill, she said: “New clause 55 will tackle the TikTok traffickers and help prevent people from risking their lives taking these journeys across the English Channel.”

A group of more than 50 MPs recently wrote to PM Rishi Sunak, urging him to introduce emergency legislation designed to cut small boat crossings.

Ms Elphicke’s amendment would create a new criminal offence of “intentionally sharing a photograph or film that facilitates or promotes modern slavery or illegal immigration”.

It has the support of a group of Tory backbenchers, including former ministers Sir John Hayes and Tim Loughton.

Ms Elphicke told MPs: “Advertising in this context is not done through an advert in the local paper, it is by the posting of a video online and photos online.”

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‘It’s no life here’: Albanians undeterred from seeking a life in the UK

PABest A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Monday November 14, 2022.

She told ministers TikTok, WhatsApp and Facebook had all been identified as platforms actively used by the people smugglers and said “action is needed … to save lives in the Channel”.

Ms Elphicke said her amendment would be a stronger deterrent to traffickers.

She added: “It will make it harder for the people smugglers to sell their wares, it will help to protect people who would be exploited and put at risk by these criminal gangs.

“Risks to life and injury, the risk of modern slavery, risks of being swept into further crime both abroad and here in the UK are very real.

“It is another tool in the toolbox to tackle illegal immigration and prevent modern slavery.”

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Home Secretary Suella Braverman admits migration failure

Culture minister Paul Scully said he would work closely with Ms Elphicke on the legislation’s passage ahead of its consideration in the House of Lords.

“The legislation will give our law enforcement agencies and social media companies the powers and guidance they need to stop the promotion of organised criminal activity on social media.”