Privatisation on hold

Donelan to ‘re-examine’ case for C4 sale

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Channel 4’s future has been in doubt

Channel 4’s privatisation was put on hold today after UK Culture secretary Michelle Donelan pledged to “re-examine” the case for selling the channel.

She said this followed the view of Prime Minister Liz Truss, to “make sure we still agree with that decision.”

Ms Donelan, making her first comments since taking office in the new government, said: “I’m the type of politician that bases their decisions on evidence and on listening.

“I will take that approach when it comes to Channel 4. I will be looking at the business case and announcing in due course.”

The Culture department has prepared a draft media bill, which will consider the privatisation of Channel 4 and overhaul of broadcasting rules to bring them into the digital age.

Channel 4 executives may see this pause as possibly reopening negotiations over alternative reforms to its business model that stop short of a private sale, such as partnering with private investors while remaining in public ownership.

Previous Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries described this as “unworkable” and wanted to press ahead with a sale in April despite the government’s consultation finding widespread opposition to the plan.

Regarding the BBC, Ms Donelan, who has previously called for the licence fee to be abolished, said that it is “no secret” that she is a long-term sceptic of the model but pledged to take a similar evidence-based approach to funding the corporation.

“We need to make sure the BBC is sustainable in the longer term,” she told Sky News. “In an age when you have Netflix, Amazon Prime and all these other subscription-based channels, it does throw into question whether the current model that the BBC uses is actually sustainable in the long term and is providing that choice element to the general public.”

Ms Truss pledged to review the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee and, during her leadership campaign, said that as prime minister she would “look at all the options” to overhaul the model.

The BBC has previously warned that decriminalisation of the licence fee would hit its funding by hundreds of millions of pounds a year, leading to significant cuts to programming and output.

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