Cultural vandalism claim
£1 billion Channel 4 privatisation splits opinion
Channel 4 will be privatised before the next general election in a move that will raise £1 billion for the Treasury but has prompted claims from Labour of “cultural vandalism”.
The biggest privatisation in nine years has also been greeted with disappointment by Channel 4 itself which said it would nonetheless “continue to engage” with the Government to “ensure that Channel 4 continues to play its unique part in Britain’s creative ecology and national life”.
It added that the government had not formally recognised “the significant public interest concerns which have been raised.”
Channel 4, which yesterday announced that former Kingfisher CEO Sir Ian Cheshire as its next chairman, said it had presented the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with an 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.”
It argues that 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.”
Channel 4 is relocating its head office to Leeds and has opened one of two creative hubs in Glasgow.
It continued: “Channel 4 remains legally committed to its unique public-service remit. The focus for the organisation will be on how we can ensure we deliver the remit to both our viewers and the British creative economy across the whole of the UK.
“The proposal to privatise Channel 4 will require a lengthy legislative process and political debate. We will of course continue to engage with DCMS, Government and Parliament, and do everything we can to ensure that Channel 4 continues to play its unique part in Britain’s creative ecology and national life.”
Ministers argue that government ownership of Channel 4 is “holding it back” and that a sale will create a “creative dividend” which will play a part in the levelling up agenda.
A source said the channel will remain a public service broadcaster in the same way that privately-owned ITV is a PSB.
Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, said: “Nothing screams a rudderless government like announcements on Channel 4 while people’s energy bills are through the roof.
“Selling off Channel 4, which doesn’t cost the tax-payer a penny anyway, to what is likely to be a foreign company, is cultural vandalism. It will cost jobs and opportunities in the North and Yorkshire, and hit the wider British creative economy.
“This shows that the Conservatives have run out of ideas and run out of road. Of all the issues the public wants action on, the governance of Channel 4 isn’t one.
“The government should have a laser like focus on the cost of living crisis, and help people with their bills, not be fiddling around like this for ideological reasons.”
Walker quits BBC for C5
BBC breakfast show presenter Dan Walker is the latest to name to leave the corporation, confirming that he is joining Channel 5 News.
The former Football Focus host said he is leaving his near £300,000 a year job to be the channel’s lead anchor.
The 45-year-old said he “can’t wait to get stuck into the daily news show’, adding ‘I love their ideas and creativity”.
In rececent months the BBC has lost high profile journalists Jon Sopel, Emily Maitlis and Andrew Marr.