Campaigners slam Tory move to privatise Channel 4
The government is seeking to go ahead with plans to privatise the publicly owned broadcaster Channel 4. According to reports, Channel 4‘s broadcaster’s chief executive, Alex Mahon, told staff on April 4 that Nadine Dorries – the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – plans to proceed with proposals to sell the broadcaster. Currently, Channel 4 is publicly owned but funded wholly through commercial advertising.
The move has faced heavy criticism from campaigners, opposition politicians and figures from the arts sector. Tom Morton – lead campaigner at anti-privatisation group We Own It told Bright Green privatising the broadcaster would be “an act of economic and cultural vandalism”. He said,
Selling off Channel 4 would be an act of economic and cultural vandalism. The government is trying to act like they are doing Channel 4 a favour, saying that privatisation is the only way that it can compete with Netflix and Amazon.
But this is nonsense. Channel 4 isn’t struggling. In fact it’s performing above and beyond expectations. It’s a growing, profitable corporation, with hundreds of millions in reserve, and it’s way beyond target to double its digital viewers and revenues.
The real reason for privatisation is so that the government can yet again take public assets and put them in private pockets and the people who will pay the price for it are working people and small businesses in the regions and nations outside London.
The allegation of ‘vandalism’ was also levelled by Labour MP Chris Bryant. He tweeted his opposition to the sale,
Selling @Channel4 would be economically illiterate, culturally devastating and a hammer blow to the independent production industry. Selling it saves no taxpayer money, it harms creative diversity and undermines a great British export. It’s vandalism.
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) April 4, 2022
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the privatisation is part of the “Tor[ies] assault on public broadcasting”,
After the cuts in BBC funding, this is the next stage in the Tory’s assault on public broadcasting. The superb role of Channel 4 News in providing objective analysis of Johnson & his ministers’ performance has made it vulnerable to this disgraceful attack. https://t.co/1LRScuSJcp
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) April 4, 2022
The television writer Armando Iannucci, who has written hit comedy shows including The Thick of It, Veep and I’m Alan Partridge said the sale “makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense.” The comedian behind shows including The Revolution Will Be Televised, Jolyon Rubinstein pointed towards the comedy legacy of Channel 4 in his comments on the sale. He said, “Would Ali G have been made by a privatised Channel 4? Would Brass Eye? Would the 11 O’Clock show? The Last Leg? I very much doubt it.”
In November 2021, Nadine Dorries faced ridicule for devising plans to privatise Channel 4 while appearing not to understand its funding model. We Own It is calling on members of the public to write to their MP to demand the sale is halted.
Image credit: UK Government – Creative Commons
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