Culture Minister Michelle Donelan has recommended against the proposed privatisation of Channel 4.
According to The Independent, Donelan said in a leaked letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that there are “better ways to ensure the sustainability of C4” than selling the state broadcaster.
“After studying the economic rationale, I came to the conclusion that to conduct a sale at this stage is the wrong decision,” she wrote in a document obtained by the News Agents podcast.
In addition, the Culture minister told Sunak that the television sector “will be seriously undermined by the sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities.”
Donelan said the reversal of the sale plan “is likely to be popular with MPs, especially those who have expressed concern about the impact of the sale of C4C [Channel 4 television Corporation] on the UK public broadcasting system.”
🚨 THE NEWS AGENTS EXCLUSIVE 🚨
The Culture Secretary recommends that Channel 4 privatisation does NOT go ahead. More on the podcast later… https://t.co/NFDAflSx0V
— The News Agents (@TheNewsAgents) January 4, 2023
She told the Prime Minister that the government should use legislation to repeal rules prohibiting Channel 4 from producing content for its main channel, arguing that the broadcaster should have “more commercial flexibility.”
The Culture Minister has also proposed plans to introduce a new legislative duty to the C4 board with a focus on long-term sustainability.
However, Donelan said she wants the government to provide C4 with “more tools” to help its efforts to “optimize the support and growth they provide to the creative sector and regions.”
In November last year, it was reported that the Prime Minister was going to abandon plans to privatize the channel, which were launched back in 1982. This happened after Donelan stated that she would “reconsider” the offer after she received her current position.
The previous culture minister Nadine Dorries tweeted in April 2022 about her intentions to privatize the broadcaster, believing that state ownership “keeps Channel 4” from competing with streaming platforms.
Responding to the apparent U-turn outlined in a leaked letter today (January 4), Dorris said that “it will now be almost impossible for [Sunak] to stand up to the electorate” in the next general election.
“Three years of a progressive Tory government have been washed down the drain,” she wrote, adding: “The sale of C4 with a return of 2 billion pounds has been canceled. What is replaced with?” You can see this post below.
A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so.
Where is the mandate- who voted for this?
Will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments.
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 4, 2023
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said of the contents of the letter: “The Conservatives’ revenge against Channel 4 has always been wrong for Britain, the growth of our creative economy and a waste of everyone’s time.
“Our broadcasting and creative industries are leading the world, but this government has crippled them over the past year, completely distracted by the privatization of Channel 4.”
She continued: “Labour opposed this sell-off and took a firm stand. The government must now put forward a media bill to protect and promote British broadcasters in the streaming era.
“While the conservatives are destroying our economy, we have a plan to develop and develop our creative industries.”
Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrats’ culture spokesman, called the U-turn “good news.”
“The threat to sell [sic] Channel 4 was nothing more than a culture war unleashed by a reckless and reckless cabinet,” he tweeted.
“But the fact that this government is doing the exact opposite of the previous one just shows how divided the Conservatives are. I think they need a break.”
Stone continued: “The public needs to know exactly how much taxpayer money the government has wasted on these fruitless plans, and how much money is wasted every time a new cabinet member puts forward another rampant vanity project.
You can see these messages and other reactions below.
As Nadine Dorries’ privatisation of Channel 4 is scrapped, she sums up her legacy as Culture Secretary pic.twitter.com/lFKdARnjJX
— Toby Earle 🇺🇦 (@TobyonTV) January 4, 2023
A reminder that ministers spent £2 million on the now-ditched plan to privatise Channel 4.
Obviously not enough to settle the nurses pay dispute, but every little helps …https://t.co/xEYjOgErpI
— Kevin Schofield (@KevinASchofield) January 4, 2023
In April last year on Change.org a petition was launched to stop the sale plans. At the time of writing, almost 500,000 signatures had been collected.
Last summer it was reported that Idris Elba was in talks to buy Channel 4 for 1 billion pounds.
Earlier, Armando Iannucci responded to the proposal to privatize Channel 4, saying that this idea “makes no commercial sense” and undermines the “huge economic and cultural achievements of the broadcaster.”