Donelan tells MPs she is looking at ‘other options’ to C4 privatisation

UK culture secretary Michelle Donelan has given her strongest indication yet that the UK government will shelve its controversial plan to privatise broadcaster Channel 4, a move that could devastate the UK’s thriving independent production community.

Michelle Donelan

First reported in the Guardian Newspaper, Donelan told Members of Parliament she is exploring alternative business models that could dispense with the privatisation plan, first mooted during Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister. She said: “I’ve been looking at other options and discussing those with Channel 4 as to how feasible they are. If we go down one of those roads we would need them to fully sign up.”

Donelan hasn’t formally taken privatisation off the table – presumably as a way of applying pressure during negotiations. However the government is unlikely to want another fight on its hands as it seeks to deal with multiple tiers of economic unrest across the country. Aside from the impact on independent producers, one potential area of concern for Donelan is that a privatised C4 might be taken over by a rival commercial broadcaster – thus turning into a protracted debate about competition.

Speaking to MPs on the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, Donelan said the big concern about C4’s current business model is that it is so reliant on linear advertising. Channel 4 has made some suggestions of its own, which Donelan has yet to comment on. These include selling its Horseferry Road building in London and moving staff to its base in Leeds. It has also talked about beefing up its global streaming offering, echoing moves by the BBC.

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