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UK’s Channel 4 looks set to escape privatisation threat

Reports suggest the UK government has dropped its plans to privatise broadcaster Channel 4. Citing a leaked letter, several news outlets say culture secretary Michelle Donelan has recommended scrapping the plan. Instead, she will call for the broadcaster to move more jobs out of London, something it has already proposed.

Michelle Donelan

Donelan is said to have told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that there is little desire for privatisation of the broadcaster among the majority of British Members of Parliament.

She argues that a sale is not currently the right decision “and there are better ways to secure Channel 4 Corporation’s sustainability and that of the independent production sector”. On the latter point, she said UK indies would be “very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities”.

Having said this, there is still a potential medium-term threat for indies – which are already suffering the impact of rampant inflation. Aside from moving more staff outside London, Donelan suggested Channel 4 should be allowed to make more shows in-house as a way to diversify its revenue base. Allowing C4 to accrue rights would undoubtedly have an impact on the money-making potential of indie firms.

Donelan’s letter drew a barbed response from her predecessor Nadine Dorries, who pushed for privatisation during her brief tenure as culture secretary. On Twitter, Dorries said: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down. A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2bn reversed. Replaced with what?”

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