Channel 4 privatisation shouldn’t go ahead, culture secretary tells PM

Michelle Donelan

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan has recommended that the proposed privatisation of Channel 4 should not go ahead.

As The Independent reports, Donelan said in a leaked letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that there are “better ways to ensure C4’s sustainability” than selling off the publicly-owned broadcaster.

“After reviewing the business case, I have concluded that pursing a sale at this point is not the right decision,” she wrote in the document that was obtained by the News Agents podcast.

Additionally, the culture secretary told Sunak that the TV sector “would be very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priortities”.

Donelan said a U-turn on the sale plan “is likely to be popular with parliamentarians, particularly those who raised concerns about the effect a sale of C4C [Channel 4 Television Corporation] may have on the UK’s system of public service broadcasting”.

She told the PM that the government should use legislation to scrap rules that stop Channel 4 from producing content for its main channel, arguing that the broadcaster should have “more commercial flexibility”.

The culture secretary also proposed plans to introduce a new statutory duty on the C4 board, with a focus on long-term sustainability.

However, Donelan said she wanted to see the government give C4 “more tools” to help its efforts in “optimising the support and the growth they provide to the creative sector and the regions”.

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said of the letter’s contents: “The Conservatives’ vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy, and a complete waste of everyone’s time.

“Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this Government has hamstrung them for the last year with the total distraction of Channel 4 privatisation.”

She continued: “Labour opposed this sell off, and took a strong stand. Government must now bring forward the Media Bill to protect and promote Britain’s broadcasters in the streaming age.

“Whilst the Conservatives crash our economy, we have a plan to nurture and grow our creative industries.”

Jamie Stone, the culture spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said the reported U-turn was “good news”.

“The threat to sell of [sic] Channel 4 was nothing more than a culture war waged by a rash and reckless Cabinet,” he tweeted.

“But for this Government to be doing the exact opposite to the last just goes to show how divided the Conservatives are. I think they need a break.”

Stone went on: “The public need to know exactly how much taxpayer’s money the Government wasted on these fruitless plans, and how much money is wasted every time a new Cabinet member comes up with another impetuous vanity project.

You can see those posts and more reactions below.

A petition was launched last April in a bid to stop the sale plans. At the time of writing, it has received almost 500,000 signatures.

Last summer, it was reported that Idris Elba had been in talks to back a £1billion bid for Channel 4.

Armando Iannucci previously hit back at the proposal to privatise Channel 4, saying that the idea didn’t “make any business sense” and undermines the broadcaster’s “tremendous economic and cultural achievement”.

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