In a controversial move, the government has pushed ahead with privatization of the channel despite the broadcaster insisting that it remain under public ownership.
The chain is said to be sold by the government for at least £1billion in the biggest privatization in nine years – since Royal Mail went private.
This decision risks falling the channel, considered by some as a pillar of British culture, into the hands of streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.
The flagship new Media Bill, due to be discussed in the Queen’s Speech next month, will allow ministers to sell the channel before the next election.
It comes after a series of clashes between the Tories and Channel 4 ahead of the 2019 election.
In the same year, Dorothy Byrne – the boss of Channel 4 – called Boris Johnson a “notorious liar” and a “coward” and compared him to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a conversation at a television festival.
Similarly, former Channel 4 main presenter Jon Snow was filmed shouting “f*** the Toris” at Glastonbury in 2017.
A government source told the BBC: “Ministers have decided that, although Channel 4 as a business is currently performing well, government ownership is holding it back in the face of a rapidly changing and competitive media landscape.
“Channel 4 is a great company with a strong brand built around it being creative, innovative and distinctive, but a change in ownership will remove its shackles, giving Channel 4 the freedom to innovate and grow so it can flourish and prosper long into the future and support all of Britain’s creative industries.”
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They added that it needed a “lengthy legislative process and political debate”, saying: “Channel 4 remains legally committed to its unique public service mission. The organization will focus on how we can ensure that we deliver mission to both our viewers and the British creative economy across the UK.”
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, criticized the decision, saying: “Selling Channel 4, which doesn’t cost the taxpayer a dime anyway, to what is likely to be an overseas company, hasn’t absolutely no sense. It will cost jobs. and opportunities in the North and Yorkshire, and hit the wider UK creative economy.”
Channel 4 was founded in 1982 during the reign of Margaret Thatcher and was created to serve an underserved audience and act as a disruptor for the BBC and ITV.
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This notice was published: 2022-04-04 23:00:00