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Channel 4 privatisation to go ahead, says Nadine Dorries

The Culture Secretary said the broadcaster's public ownership is holding it back from competing with the likes of Amazon and Netflix

By Will Richards

Channel 4 logo
(Photo: Channel 4)

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has confirmed that she will proceed with plans to privatise Channel 4 after 40 years of public ownership.

The government’s controversial plan to sell off the broadcaster was mooted following their 2019 General Election victory, though plans have been discussed throughout the channel’s four decades in public ownership.

In an email sent to staff last night (April 4), Channel 4 Chief Executive Alex Mahon told staff: “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.

“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.”

In a series of tweets announcing her intention to go ahead with the sale, Dorries said that Channel 4 is being “[held] back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon” due to its public ownership.

“A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future,” she added.

Around £1billion is hoped to be raised from the sale.

The proposed sale has received significant backlash from the shadow cabinet and the media industry, with shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell calling it “cultural vandalism” and adding: “Selling off Channel 4, which doesn’t cost the tax-payer a penny anyway, to what is likely to be a foreign company, is cultural vandalism. It will cost jobs and opportunities in the north and Yorkshire, and hit the wider British creative economy.”

In a statement responding to Dorries’ latest proposal, Channel 4 said the secretary’s statement had been “made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised” about the sale.

It added: “Channel 4 has engaged in good faith with the government throughout the consultation process … Recently, Channel 4 presented DCMS with a real alternative to privatisation that would safeguard its future financial stability, allowing it to do significantly more for the British public, the creative industries and the economy, particularly outside London.

“Channel 4 remains legally committed to its unique public-service remit. The focus for the organisation will be on how we can ensure we deliver the remit to both our viewers and the British creative economy across the whole of the UK.

“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.”