Channel 4 will remain publicly owned as government scraps privatisation plan, confirming LBC exclusive

5 January 2023, 11:29 | Updated: 5 January 2023, 15:45

Michelle Donelan has confirmed Channel 4 will no longer be privatised
Michelle Donelan has confirmed Channel 4 will no longer be privatised. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The government has confirmed Channel 4 will remain publicly owned.

As revealed exclusively by The News Agent's yesterday, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wrote to the Prime Minister recommending the Government drops its plans to privatise Channel 4.

Announcing the U-turn, Ms Donelan said: "Channel 4 is a British success story and a linchpin of our booming creative industries.

"After reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors I have decided that Channel 4 should not be sold.

"This announcement will bring huge opportunities across the UK with Channel 4's commitment to double their skills investment to £10m and double the number of jobs outside of London.

"The package will also safeguard the future of our world leading independent production sector.

"We will work closely with them to add new protections such as increasing the amount of content C4C must commission from independent producers."

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan confirmed the news this morning
Culture secretary Michelle Donelan confirmed the news this morning. Picture: Getty

Channel 4 said it welcomes the government's decision to keep Channel 4 in public ownership and "safely in the hands of the British people".

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive of Channel 4, said: “The principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world.“

"Channel 4 is innovative, editorially brilliant and loved by audiences that others don’t reach, most of all the young and underrepresented. In the analogue world, we did this spectacularly. Now, in the digital era, we are doing it again.

"Working with the world-leading TV and film producers of the UK, we continue to give birth to ideas that thrill audiences and change perspectives globally.

“Five years ago, we committed to representing the whole of the UK on screen and to growing our impact across the Nations and Regions. Most recently, we took on the job of removing obstacles for young people who thought a career in this industry was somehow not for them.

“I am personally delighted that we will be able to do more, making positive change for the people that others don’t fight for. We will move faster, invest more, take more risks, break down barriers and push boundaries; getting up to do that every day is an utter privilege for those of us lucky enough to work at Channel 4.”

Channel 4's privatisation was proposed by Boris Johnson's government
Channel 4's privatisation was proposed by Boris Johnson's government. Picture: Getty

The decision to take the broadcaster out of public ownership was announced under the tenure of her predecessor, Nadine Dorries, who led the move during Boris Johnson's premiership.

In an exclusive for The News Agents podcast, the letter by Ms Donelan says she has "concluded that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decision and there are better ways to secure C4C's (Channel 4 Corporation) sustainability and that of the independent production sector".

She added that its role in supporting the independent production sector "would be very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities".

After the revelation yesterday, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the "Conservatives' vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain."

Ms Powell tweeted: "The Conservatives' vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy and a complete waste of everyone's time.

"Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this Government has hamstrung them with this total distraction."

Ms Donelan’s predecessor Nadine Dorries, who championed the channel's privatisation, tweeted: “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 £2b reversed. Replaced with what?”

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