Privatisation will help Channel 4 grow, claims culture secretary

The UK’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden will again propose support for the privatisation today.

The MP for Hertsmere will speak at the Royal Television Society on Wednesday, and state that the pubcaster requires a steady cash flow in order to create content which can compete with the likes of Netflix and HBO. 

According to excerpts of his speech made available prior to the event, Dowden will tell attendees: “I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. It can either come on the back of the taxpayer, or it can come from private investment. And it’s my strong position – as a point of principle – that I do not believe the borrowing of a commercial TV channel should be underwritten by a granny in Stockport or Southend.

“Without [funding], Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants.”

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden

Dowden will also pledge that the broadcaster’s public service remit will not be impacted, saying: “If we do choose to proceed with a sale, I will make sure it remains subject to proper public service obligations.”

Channel 4 itself has stated opposition to privatisation, and earlier this month cited research by Ernst & Young which showed that removing the publisher-broadcaster model would reduce its contribution to the UK’s creative economy by £2 billion over the course of 10 years. The broadcaster has argued that its model is already financially sustainable.

Similarly, research from Ampere Analysis has said that up to 60 independent production companies could go out of business should Channel 4 be privatised.

Channel 4 has also said that its purchase by a for-profit company would impact its investment in regional offices, while other critics have argued that a deal would see bold content like It’s a Sin not make it to air.

As with the UK government’s campaign against the BBC’s funding model, some have argued that the review into Channel 4 is politically motivated as its news output has angered the Conservatives in recent years. An example of this is when the broadcaster replaced prime minister Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture during a 2019 general election debate when he refused to appear.

Tags: Channel 4

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