Culture secretary Oliver Dowden will argue that new private investment could usher in a new era for Channel 4 as a leading public service broadcaster that would continue to create the kind of risk-taking content it’s known for.
In a speech to the Royal Television Society Convention in Cambridge on Wednesday, Dowden is expected to outline the benefits of the government’s controversial privatisation plans.
His speech is also likely to include new measures designed to protect the channel, he will reiterate that Channel 4’s status as a PSB will continue in the event of a sale, with the obligations and requirements that come with it.
The proposals have been greeted with concern across the industry, ranging from the independent producers’ association PACT, through to Channel 4’s management.
“Right now, Channel 4 is in a stable position. But I think too many people are fixated on Channel 4’s current situation. I’m much more concerned with its long-term future,” says Dowden in an excerpt of his speech released to Broadband TV News.
“And I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. Without it, Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants.”
Mr Dowden will say that private investment could give Channel 4 more opportunities to cover moments that bring the nation together, highlighting the broadcaster’s coverage of the Paralympics and Emma Raducanu’s US Open win that was also cited by Channel 4 itself, though with very different outcomes.
According to Dowden it is not a “false binary choice” between a public service channel and privatisation; and that its commitment to independent production would continue.
“So if we do choose to proceed with a sale, I will make sure it remains subject to proper public service obligations. And I’d imagine those to include: a continued commitment to independent news and current affairs, to commissioning programming from the independent production sector, and that Channel 4 should continue to be representative of the entire nation.”
The consultation on Channel 4’s future closes on September 14.