Britain’s opposition Labour Party has described the proposed sale of Channel 4 as “cultural vandalism”.
The government confirmed Monday it was to press ahead with the sale of the public broadcaster for an estimated £1 billion. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said that government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon. “A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to flourish and thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future. I will set out the future plan for Channel 4 in a White Paper in due course.”
Two of the three broadcasters linked with a possible purchase, Comcast-owned Sky and Paramount UK’s Channel 5 already operate streaming services of their own. ITV has also been linked with the 40-year-old broadcaster.
The government plans to reinvest the proceeds of the sale into “levelling up” the creative sector, putting money into “independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country”.
In a statement, Channel 4 said it was disappointing the government had ignored the public interest concerns raised in 60,000 consultation responses. “Recently, Channel 4 presented DCMS with a real alternative to privatisation that would safeguard its future financial stability, allowing it to do significantly more for the British public, the creative industries and the economy, particularly outside London.”
Channel 4 doesn’t hold any studios of its own and commissions all of its programmes, including the flagship Channel 4 News, which is produced by ITN. This means that the sale will effectively be for the broadcaster’s frequencies and digital channels including E4, More4 and 4Music.
Many independent producers fear a loss of income if Channel 4 is privatised.
The process is expected to take several months.