Please wait...
Please wait...

UK government to reassert Channel 4 privatisation plans despite backlash

The UK government’s culture secretary will set out his support for the privatisation of Channel 4 at the Royal Television Society Convention later today.

Oliver Dowden

Oliver Dowden’s speech at the event in Cambridge will see him make the case for the controversial plans, which have been widely rejected by the UK’s indie community and fiercely argued against by C4 itself.

This follows the recent conclusion of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)’s consultation period on the plans that began in June.

Dowden is set to argue that private ownership is the best way for the commercial public service broadcaster to compete with US streamers by giving it “deeper pockets.”

C4 yesterday laid out its response to the DCMS consultation, which warns the government of the potential negative consequences privatisation would have on the business, which comes after it ended 2020 with a record financial surplus of £74m (US$102m).

“Right now, Channel 4 is in a stable position. But I think too many people are fixated on Channel 4’s current situation. I’m much more concerned with its long-term future,” Dowden will say.

“And I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. Without it, 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.

“The next obvious question: Where does that cash come from? It can either come on the back of the taxpayer, or it can come from private investment. And it’s my strong position – as a point of principle – that I do not believe the borrowing of a commercial TV channel should be underwritten by a granny in Stockport or Southend.

“Instead, we can help it unlock that much-needed investment. And we can do so while protecting the parts of Channel 4 that none of us want to lose.”

The plans to sell C4 – which have reportedly attracted the interest of a host of US players, including Discovery – have been widely criticised by the indie sector it was set up to service in the 1980s.

John McVay, CEO of producers’ association Pact, has gone as far as describing the proposal as a “hatchet job” and believes the plans could see numerous indies go out of business if they go ahead.

Bosses at C4 itself have been equally outspoken about the plans, with CEO Alex Mahon stating earlier this month: “We have not seen any evidence that the irreversible change of privatising C4 will be in the interests of either British audiences or the UK’s economy, and it could well have serious and long-lasting consequences for our world-leading television production sector.”


Please wait...