Privatisation looms for Channel 4, despite criticism of the move

The Government has decided to forge ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4, which opened its northern base in the centre of Leeds in 2019.

Plans for the sale, on which there has been a public consultation, are to be included in May’s Queen’s Speech.

But Channel 4 has called it “disappointing” warning that ministers had made their decision despite “significant public interest concerns” over privatisation.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said the Government was making the “wrong decision”. “Privatising Channel 4 is opposed by the majority of people in the creative industries and risks losing the things that make the broadcaster so precious to us,” she argued.

It is understood money made from the sale will be reinvested in a “creative dividend” to be shared among the TV industry, with some of it earmarked for independent production companies.

Channel 4, founded in 1982 to put on programmes for under-served audiences, is funded by advertising but is publicly owned.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Channel 4 rightly holds a cherished place in British life and I want that to remain the case. I have come to the conclusion that Government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.

“A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future.”

When it was confirmed last year that the Government was staging a consultation on privatising the channel, its bosses warned of “a real risk” to some of its programmes.

Responding to the news that the move was going ahead, a Channel 4 spokesman said: “With over 60,000 submissions to the Government’s public consultation, it is disappointing this announcement has been made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.

“Channel 4 has engaged in good faith with the Government throughout the consultation process, demonstrating how it can continue to commission much-loved programmes from the independent sector across the UK that represent and celebrate every aspect of British life as well as increase its contribution to society, while maintaining ownership by the public.

“Recently, Channel 4 presented the Department for Culture Media and Sport with a real alternative to privatisation that would safeguard its future financial stability, allowing it to do significantly more for the British public, the creative industries and the economy, particularly outside London.

“This is particularly important given that the organisation is only two years into a significant commitment to drive up its impact in the UK’s Nations and Regions.”