NEWS5 January 2023

Culture secretary reportedly advises against C4 privatisation

Media News Public Sector UK

UK – Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, has recommended that the UK government does not privatise Channel 4, according to a letter leaked online.

Channel 4 office_crop

The plan to sell Channel 4 was initially drawn up by previous prime minister Boris Johnson’s government, but faced opposition from many in the UK television industry.

On taking up her role in September, Donelan said she would “re-examine the business case” for privatisation.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, obtained and tweeted by the News Agents podcast on Wednesday ( 4th January), Donelan said: “After reviewing the business case, I have concluded that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decision and there are better ways to secure C4C’s sustainability and that of the UK independent production sector.”

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has not confirmed a change of plan. A DCMS spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation. The DCMS Secretary of State has been clear that we are looking again at the business case for the sale of Channel 4. We will announce more on our plans in due course.” 

Advertising industry body the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) welcomed the reports.

Paul Bainsfair, director general, IPA, said: “We very much welcome the culture secretary’s recommendation to drop Channel 4 privatisation. Her letter to the prime minister emphasises support and sustainability of the independent production sector which is absolutely correct.

“It is also worth highlighting that this symbiotic relationship of public service broadcaster (PSB) and independent production ecosystem is underpinned by advertising. Channel 4 is a hugely successful advertising business delivering a large, unique audience profile through its PSB remit. It is well led, an innovator and with a market leading broadcaster video on-demand platform, it is well positioned for continued success.”