Channel 4 privatisation plans scrapped

Plans to privatise Channel 4 have been scrapped, with the Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan concluding selling the broadcaster was “not the right decision”.

channel 4 privatisation

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, Donelan added: “There are better ways to secure C4C (Channel 4 Corporation) sustainability and that of the UK independent production sector.”

The decision is a sharp policy change from that of Boris Johnson’s government. Johnson and his former culture secretary Nadine Dorries were steadfast in their intention to the state-owned, self-funded Channel 4. They insisted it was part of a wider effort to modernise the TV sector and keep up with streaming platforms.

Michelle Donelan

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan

During his leadership campaign, Sunak backed the decision to sell. It is understood, however, that he faced fierce opposition from within his own Cabinet, who voiced concerns about how privatisation would impact the UK’s independent production sector.

In Donelan’s letter to the prime minister, seen by the News Agents podcast, the culture secretary proposed relaxing a ban on Channel 4 producing its own programmes. 

Donelan also suggested the broadcaster be given more commercial flexibility, as traditional TV advertising declines, as well as revealing the Treasury may increase Channel 4’s borrowing limit above its current £200m level.

“Overall, my intention is to be clear with C4C that we expect them to achieve greater sustainability – for which the Government will give them more tools – while optimising the support and growth they provide to the creative sector and to the regions,” Donelan said.


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