‘No evidence’ to suggest privatisation of Channel 4 ‘benefits’ Britons, network says

‘No evidence’ to suggest privatisation of Channel 4 ‘benefits’ Britons, network says
Network accused the government of failing to provide any other options to ensure its ‘long-term survival’

Kanaal 4 has said plans to “irreversibly” privatise it are based on a lack of evidence and may in fact do more “harm” than good.

Die broadcaster also raised concerns that moving it “from the British public into private commercial hands” could result in “reduced diversity and quality of content for UK viewers”.

It comes amid a 10-week consultation which is assessing whether the channel, which was founded in 1982, should continue to be owned by the government – and receive its funding from advertising – or be sold off to a private buyer.

Kanaal 4 said in its response: “Having considered all the available analysis extremely carefully, we have concluded there is no evidence that the irreversible transfer of Channel 4 from the British public into private commercial hands will be of benefit to either British audiences or the UK economy, and may indeed cause them harm.”

It added that “the evidence suggests continued public ownership of Channel 4 would create the right conditions not only to overcome the audience and competitive challenges the government has rightly identified, but also to ensure that public service broadcasting in the UK continues to thrive”.

The government previously said it was consulting on privatisation because it wants to ensure the channel’s “long-term survival” in the face of streaming giants, including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Egter, Channel 4’s submission claims the consultation failed to outline “other options that could seek to bolster Channel 4 in the long term without the risks that will be caused by a change in ownership”.

According to the broadcaster, these include updating legislation on public service prominence to apply across digital platforms and reviewing the commercial relationships between platforms and publishers through the new digital markets unit.

The submission also includes research commissioned by the broadcaster suggesting the majority of Conservative viewers oppose the privatisation of Channel 4, as seen by the PA news agency.

An audience survey of 2,000 mense, conducted by Tapestry in July 2021, found once Channel 4’s model was explained to the sample, 82 per cent of UK adults aged 18-75 said Channel 4 should remain publicly-owned.

This included 75 per cent of Conservative voters and 75 per cent of people in Scotland.

Channel 4’s unique status, being that it was established as an editorially independent broadcaster to provide cultural alternatives to BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, makes it a crucial partner to dozens of independent television producers across the UK.

Egter, the broadcaster’s pre-Covid £660m annual budget for commissioning TV productions, including original shows such as Gogglebox and the smash hit It’s A Sin, would likely be slashed if the move went ahead – washing away Channel 4’s USP and putting dozens of relevant partner companies and their staff in jeopardy.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is yet to comment on the claims put forward by Channel 4.

Intussen, the government’s consultation is due to end this evening, just before midnight.

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