‘I have come to the conclusion that government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon,’ she explained on Twitter
“And… so… although it’s… ja… en… die… and the.”
This is the verbatim quote, in its entirety – not a word more or less – issued by Nadine Dorries, the actual secretary of state for culture, wanneer, on live TV, she’d got to the end of a weird rant about Kanaal 4 not providing value for taxpayers’ money, only to be told, by fellow Conservative MP Damian Green, that it had never received any.
By the time she had got to the second “and the”, all she could do was frantically waggle her open palm at a civil servant sitting next to her, desperate for somebody else to start doing the talking before the entire room simply died of embarrassment.
dit is, even by the new (and never lower) standards of today, rare for a cabinet minister to so obviously reveal that they do not know anything – anything at all – about the vast area of public life over which they yield significant power.
That was in November, om redelik te wees. She’d only been in the job a couple of months. It’s April now, and in some ways it’s reassuring to see, as she made the highly significant announcement that she intends to sell off Channel 4, that six months later, she still knows absolutely nothing.
“I have come to the conclusion that government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon,” she explained on Twitter, by way of announcing that sy had decided that the channel should be privatised. Hierdie keer, sadly, she wasn’t in the room with someone who would immediately tell her how stupid she was being, but it’s fair to say that social media, being what it is, did not fail to do its job.
People at Channel 4, and people at the many independent TV production houses, have reacted with disappointment to Nadine Dorries coming to the conclusion that government ownership is holding back Channel 4. Because it is rather like Neil Armstrong being told by Nadine Dorries that she’s come to the conclusion that the moon is made of cheese.
Kanaal 4 is not trying to compete with streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon, which are ruthlessly commercially minded, global makers of TV shows and movies. Kanaal 4, it has been pointed out by anyone with a passing knowledge of the television industry, doesn’t make its own content, and furthermore it provides huge opportunities for a British independent TV sector of which some parts are still thriving, in a brutal environment, with no small thanks to its existence. And specifically, with no small thanks to Channel 4’s unique, publicly owned but not publicly funded, status – in other words, the very thing Dorries has just announced must end.
It has been suggested that the decision has been taken to exact a kind of revenge on Kanaal 4 Nuus, which the government considers to be hostile. (Julian Knight, chair of the Commons culture committee, described it as “biased”.) It’s very hard to know where to start with this. To a government as ruthlessly committed to lying as this one is, the truth is a very biased thing indeed.
For a very long time, to take but one example, the prime minister has been saying that there were no parties in Downing Street; dan, that there were but he wasn’t at them; and then that he was at at least one of them, but without knowing it was a party.
This has certainly presented problems for broadcasters and news reporters. Because we are not meant to say that the prime minister is lying. But if you suggest that the above assertions might actually be true, then you are left with no choice but to insult the intelligence of your viewers and readers as profoundly as the prime minister has.
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When Boris Johnson repeated an outrageous slur against Sir Keir Starmer, in the House of Commons, that the Labour leader had in his previous role failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile, Nadine Dorries went off to Kanaal 4 Nuus to defend the prime minister, and could only emit some barely translatable waffle about “not knowing the facts” (which is true: she doesn’t know the facts, about absolutely anything). She jutted out her bottom lip, and announced, in the face of all the evidence: “The prime minister tells the truth” – and left it at that.
It doesn’t feel like that long ago that Dorries was openly weeping in a hired hotel function room, back in July 2016, when Johnson pulled out of the Tory leadership race. She owes her position in the cabinet to her continuous and unquestioning loyalty to Johnson – a quality that Johnson prizes above all else in others, yet has precisely none of himself. And therein lies the problem. Only the most stupid people would offer such total loyalty to the most disloyal person public life has ever known, and the consequences could hardly be clearer, and more devastating, to us all.
There’s by no means any guarantee that selling off Channel 4 will neuter its news output, or make it in any way less interested in the truth (and so less “hostile” to the most serially dishonest prime minister the country has ever had).
But there is also no guarantee that Nadine Dorries knows this, because she is yet to do anything to demonstrate that she knows anything at all about anything. An entirely pointless act of revenge would certainly suit the mood of the moment. It would be an act of national cultural vandalism – of course it would – but that wouldn’t be a problem. Just another thing broken that can’t be rebuilt very easily. Add it to the pile.