Channel 4 sell off 'under consideration', says Culture Secretary

Ministers are considering selling off Channel 4 as part of a review of public service broadcasting.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said a decision on whether to privatise the broadcaster could be taken within this parliament.

Channel 4 was launched in 1982 as a publicly owned, largely commercially self-funded public service broadcaster.

Mr Dowden told MPs yesterday(THURS) that the rapid expansions of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ meant ministers needed to look again at its future.

“I think there is a case for considering the best future operating model for Channel 4,” he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Channel 4 is home to popular shows like the Great British Bake-Off
Channel 4 is home to popular shows like the Great British Bake-Off

“That will be one of the things we would consider in legislation in the next session.

“We would also look at video on demand and whether there are further reforms that need to be taking place there.”

Asked whether they were looking at the privatisation of Channel 4, he replied: “That is one of the options that is under consideration, yes.”

Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.

Mr Dowden also suggested that the Government could step in to help struggling festivals if they cannot get commercial insurance.

He told the committee that his focus was on reaching June 21 – the final stage of the roadmap- when remaining Covid restrictions could be lifted.

Festivals like Glastonbury have been put on hold due to the pandemic
Festivals like Glastonbury have been put on hold due to the pandemic

If festivals cannot go ahead after that point then the Government could step in he said.

Mr Dowden told MPs: “Once we get to that point, if it is the case that events still can’t go ahead because of a lack of insurance and the failure of the commercial insurance market, we stand ready to look at if we can use Government intervention in exactly the same way we did with the film industry.”

He added: “It has to be the case first that we know can something go ahead. If the final barrier to stop that happening is the lack of commercial insurance, that is the point in which we would contemplate acting.”

But Tory MP Heather Wheeler said it was “too late” for many festivals, adding: “I just feel we’ve lost probably another summer because they can’t get insurance.”

Meanwhile, Mr Dowden also confirmed that talks on hosting the Champions League final in England had stalled because UEFA wanted to bring 2,000 people for the match.

He said the Government was “unable to give an assurance to UEFA we would be willing to vary our quarantine rules in the way they wanted to happen”.

“They wanted to bring a large number of people to the match, that’s fine, it’s the issue about quarantine, he said.

“We would expect people entering the UK except in very, very exceptional circumstances to observe the quarantine rules.”

Asked if UEFA would cut back on guests, he said: “It’s for UEFA to answer those questions. We had a very constructive discussion with UEFA and it was a genuine difference that couldn’t be overcome.

“I respect the decision that UEFA made and I think they respect the fact that the government wasn’t able to move on it.”

Asked how many people, he said: “It was 2,000.”


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