NEWS21 September 2022

Government to ‘re-examine’ case for Channel 4 sale

Media News Public Sector UK

UK – Michelle Donelan, the new UK culture secretary, has said she will review the government’s decision to privatise Channel 4.

Channel 4 office_crop

Donelan, who replaces Nadine Dorries as culture secretary, was appointed earlier this month after Liz Truss was named prime minister.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Donelan said she would “re-examine the business case” for selling Channel 4.

The government had previously argued that privatisation would help Channel 4 compete with streaming firms such as Netflix, and had said the channel’s public ownership model was “constraining its ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities of this changing broadcasting market”.

Opponents of the move, however, had said that Channel 4’s privatisation would have a detrimental impact on the UK television industry, especially smaller production firms, and cited the channel’s strong current performance under its existing public ownership model.

In her Today interview, Donelan added: “We do need to re-examine the business case and that’s certainly what I’m doing.

“We’re looking especially at the business case for the sale of Channel 4 and we’re making sure that we still agree with that decision.”

She went on to add that she was a “politician who bases their decisions on evidence, who bases their decisions on listening, and that’s what I’ll be doing over the coming weeks”.

In the same interview, Donelan also said she would re-examine whether the BBC licence fee would be scrapped, and while she said she was a “sceptic” of the current funding system, she praised recent coverage of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II  and said she wanted the BBC to be “sustainable” in the long term.

Changes are also being considered to the Online Safety Bill, particularly around elements on ‘legal but harmful speech’.

A statement from Channel 4 said: Channel 4 looks forward to working with the new secretary of state as she examines options for Channel 4.”