Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is to press ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4, which would result in the broadcaster being sold off after 40 years in public ownership.
As reported by The Guardian, the government is hoping to raise close to £1billion, with the money potentially being used for creative training and for independent production companies.
Last year, former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the privatisation of Channel 4 was “needed” in order for it to “compete with the streaming giants”.
“Without [more money], Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants,” he said, according to Sky News.
“For almost 40 years, Channel 4 has been a launch pad for new ideas and new talent,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s been able to do that because of its remit and not-for-profit structure and it would be a real shame if that was destroyed by selling off the channel.”
Channel 4’s chief executive, Alex Mahon, revealed the news to staff on Monday (April 4): “We have been informed in the last hour that the government will shortly announce that the secretary of state has decided to proceed with the proposal to privatise Channel 4,” she wrote in an email.
“In our engagement with the government during its extended period of reflection, we have proposed a vision for the next 40 years which we are confident would allow us to build on the successes of the first 40. That vision was rooted in continued public ownership and was built upon the huge amount of public value this model has delivered to date and the opportunity to deliver so much more in the future.”
Many public figures have shared their anger at the news online. Caitlin Moran wrote on Twitter: “I used [sic] think politics was more nuanced, but these days, when the government announce they’re selling Channel 4, you just think, ‘Which one of their rich mates has said they want to buy it?’ Is this their only idea? Selling all our stuff?”
Armando Iannucci added: “They asked for ‘a debate’; 90% of submissions in that debate said it was a bad idea. But still they go ahead. Why do they want to make the UK’s great TV industry worse? Why? It makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense.”
I used think politics was more nuanced, but these days, when the government announce they're selling Channel 4, you just think, "Which one of their rich mates has said they want to buy it?" Is this their only idea? Selling all our stuff?
— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) April 4, 2022
The news comes just days after the government appointed businessman Sir Ian Cheshire as the new chair of Channel 4, a decision that was met with surprise from fellow broadcasters.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said the government’s announcement had been “made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised” during the consultation process, which was launched last year and attracted more than 60,000 submissions.
“The proposal to privatise Channel 4 will require a lengthy legislative process and political debate. We will of course continue to engage with DCMS, government and parliament and do everything we can to ensure that Channel 4 continues to play its unique part in Britain’s creative ecology and national life.”