I believe that Channel 4 has made a valuable contribution and should remain publicly owned.
I have been following the Government’s consultation on the ownership of Channel 4, which closed on 14 September 2021. I always saw this as a prelude to privatisation of the channel.
Then on 20 October the Media Minister Julia Lopez said that the Government is “minded to sell” the broadcaster.
Channel 4 has worked with small independent production companies more than any other broadcaster, having invested £12 billion in them, provided opportunities for employees from underrepresented backgrounds, and contributed to regional broadcasting diversity instead of being just London-centric.
In June I signed EDM 164:
“That this House shares the concern of the National Union of Journalists that the Government is still actively considering the privatisation of Channel Four Television Corporation, a publicly owned but commercially funded company which makes a notable contribution to British broadcasting; notes that Channel 4 is not presently run for profit, but generates revenues to put back into commissioning independent producers to make distinctive content; further notes that the company is required to fulfil a public-service remit, which stipulates it must be innovative and distinctive, stimulate public debate on contemporary issues, reflect cultural diversity of the UK, champion alternative points of view, inspire change in people’s lives and nurture new and existing talent; observes that proposals to privatise the company were considered and rejected just five years ago, with the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport describing the channel as a precious public asset; recalls that the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications report entitled A Privatised Future for Channel Four?, published in July 2016, HL Paper 17, warned that the distinctive quality and contribution of Channel 4 News in particular could be adversely affected by privatisation; considers that any steps towards privatisation would inevitably replace Channel 4’s characteristic public service ethos in favour of the narrow interests of shareholder profit; and therefore calls on the Government to commit to retaining Channel 4 in public hands.”
I do not agree with Government claims that privatisation is financially necessary. In 2020 Channel 4 reported a pre-tax profit of £74 million, which as a public broadcaster should be reinvested back into its programming rather than being siphoned away to shareholders.
I was elected on a manifesto to “ensure a healthy future for all our public service broadcasters.” There are many voices who argue that Channel 4 should be reformed, to make it even more democratic and participatory in how it engages the public. The Media Reform Coalition and others are exploring innovative ways public broadcasters could be transformed with its campaign “The BBC and Beyond.” I welcome these conversations.
I will continue to oppose any attempts to privatise Channel 4 both within and outside Parliament.