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Armando Iannucci blasts Channel 4 privatisation plans in new op-ed

"It doesn't make any business sense"

By Joe Goggins

Armando Iannucci at Chatham House in 2016
Iannucci is behind the likes of 'The Thick of It' and 'Veep'. (Photo: Chatham House/Wikimedia Commons)

Armando Iannucci has taken aim at the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4, claiming they don’t “make any business sense.”

The Scottish comedy mastermind, who was behind ‘The Thick of It’, ‘Veep’ and ‘The Death of Stalin’, wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian that the plans, news of which first broke on Monday (April 4), will undermine the channel’s “tremendous economic and cultural achievement.”

In the piece, Iannucci hit out specifically at culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who last year falsely claimed that the publicly-owned station is currently funded by public money. In fact, it is entirely paid for by advertising revenue. He expressed bafflement at why there was any need to send a broadcaster that “puts billions into the economy and promotes British culture and values internationally” into private hands.

“It doesn’t make any business sense, and it’s certainly not patriotic,” said Iannucci. “I regularly get asked by international broadcasters why the UK government has such a destructive agenda against the country’s main television networks. Dorries tweeted yesterday that “government ownership is holding Channel 4 back”, which perhaps explains part of the problem, that she sees the network as some manifestation of the Big State.” 

“This certainly was her view when she told the culture select committee last year, wrongly, that the channel benefited from public money,” he continued. “The truth is, though, it’s not the government that owns Channel 4: we, the public, do. Better still, we get it for free. It’s paid for by ad revenue.” He went on to note the irony of it being sold off by a Conservative government, given that it was introduced during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and is “arguably a Thatcherite success story.” 

“But again and again,” he lamented, “the government takes one look at our public service broadcasting, something of which we should be proud, and jabs away at it, cutting it here, attacking it there, talking about ‘reining it in’, asking it to ‘watch out’, as it would a surly child, rather than the rather tremendous economic and cultural achievement it actually is.”

He also suggested that the government faces a lengthy battle to pass the necessary legislation, predicting that “a troublesome passage through parliament awaits a complex bill.” Senior Tories, including Ruth Davidson, Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green, have all raised the prospect of parliamentary revolt over the plans in recent days. Iannucci urged journalists to ask ”crucial questions” about the supposed benefits of the decision in the months ahead. At the time of writing, a petition demanding the reversal of the decision had attracted 270,000 signatures.