- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The privatization of the U.K.’s Channel 4, which had become one of the most contentious issues in the British media over the last year with much of the creative industries fighting against the proposed sale, appears to have been scrapped.
In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — dated Jan. 3 and leaked by the The News Agents podcast on Jan. 4 — culture secretary Michelle Donelan said the sale would be disruptive to the Channel 4 Corporation’s role in “supporting growth” in the independent TV sector, with a package of reforms suggested instead to support its sustainability.
“Last year’s consultation on C4C’s future ownership model identified risks to the corporation’s long-term sustainability. The view of my predecessor, and the government of the time, was that selling C4C was the right solution to meet these challenges. However, 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 U.K. independent production sector,” wrote Donelan. “Indeed, C4C’s role in supporting growth in our independent production sector, a sector which is currently worth around 3 billion pounds [$3.6 billion] to our economy, would be very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities.”
The leaked letter revealed plans for the “sustainability package” that would see Channel 4 given the opportunity to produce its own content for the first time, with Donelan claiming this would take place in consultation with the U.K.’s independent production sector, which would be hit hard by any moves by the network to shift production in-house.
“The government will work closely with the independent production sector to consider what steps are necessary to ensure that Channel 4’s important role in driving investment into the sector especially in the newest, smallest and most innovative producers, is safeguarded,” the letter said. “This will be a gradual change and safeguards will include increasing the level of Channel 4’s independent production quota, which is currently set at 25 percent of programs; and potentially introducing specific protections for smaller independent producers.”
Donelan also said she’d look to increase Channel 4’s borrowing limit beyond the current limit of 200 million pounds ($240 million).
The decision by Donelan marks a 180 degree shift from that of her predecessor, Nadine Dorries, who had made the privatization of Channel 4 one of her top priorities, going against public and expert opinion in her pursuit of the goal and gaining the support of her then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Critics had described the sale as cultural vandalism, claiming Dorries’ motives were ideologically driven and came in response to unfavorable media coverage of her in Channel 4’s news output, rather than actual economic consideration.
See the full letter from Donelan below
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day