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Backbench revolt seeks to take Channel 4 privatization off the table

By John Glenday | Reporter

Channel 4

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privatisation article

February 21, 2022 | 3 min read

Boris Johnson has come under pressure from Conservative MPs to tear up plans to privatize Channel 4 after receiving a passionate letter signed by senior MPs that holds the network as a cultural bulwark of the nation.

The prime minister is being lobbied by the likes of former culture secretary Karen Bradley to change course on the issue, invoking the legacy of Margaret Thatcher (who created the station in 1982) to inspire a change of heart.

Ministers have been eyeing ways to offload the publicly-owned broadcaster amid widespread disruption to the television landscape by streaming giants muscling in on Channel 4’s turf.

Channel 4

Channel 4 is funded by advertising despite being owned by the government

Seeking to take any such sale off the table, the signatories wrote: “Margaret Thatcher created Channel 4 as a publicly owned, non-profit public sector broadcaster that would act as an incubator for independent, risk-taking, innovative private sector companies. She had a vision to level up the broadcasting landscape and she succeeded spectacularly well. We should maintain her legacy, not put it at risk.”

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Channel 4’s proponents argue that it is self-sufficient and plays a vital role in sending business to small independent production companies outside London – activity that might come under threat via a less benevolent owner. The authors conclude: “To put it simply: Channel 4 isn’t broke, and doesn’t need fixing.”

Channel 4 is funded by advertising despite being owned by the government, and has a remit to produce programming of relevance to under-served audiences through a nations and regions quota requiring 35% of commissioned content to originate outside the capital.

A DCMS spokesperson was unmoved by the letter, stating: “There is a wealth of evidence on the challenges for linear TV broadcasters, and it is right we consider a change in ownership to support Channel 4’s long-term sustainability.”

Channel 4 recently unveiled its new Leeds HQ with a banner declaring that “there’s life outside the M25.”

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Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster that began transmission on 2 November 1982. 

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