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Channel 4 boss expresses concern against ‘damaging’ privatisation bid as Government announces consultation

Channel 4 is facing privitisation (Picture: Channel 4)

Channel 4 bosses have voiced worries there could be ‘a real risk’ to its programmes should the Govnernment be successful in its push for privitisation.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced on Wednesday there would be a consultation after bosses at the broadcaster were quizzed on the issue by MPs on Tuesday.

Moving Channel 4 into private ownership and changing its remit could ensure its ‘future success and sustainability’, the department said in a statement.

The consultation will also review regulation of streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

It will consider whether new rules around impartiality and accuracy are needed for documentaries and news content on the platforms to ‘level the playing field’ with broadcasters, who are regulated by the watchdog Ofcom.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age.

‘The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system.

‘So we’ll now be looking at how we can help make sure Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting and level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services.’

However Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon said on Tuesday the broadcaster could have ‘different priorities’ if it is privatised, and cautioned against doing anything ‘irreversible’ which could ‘possibly damage some of those things that we do for the sector’.

She was speaking after the publication of Channel 4’s annual report, which showed it delivered a record financial surplus of £74 million at the end of 2020, as well as significant digital growth.

Channel 4 chair Charles Gurassa told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday that ‘big American conglomerates’ would be among the potential investors in Channel 4 if it was to be privatised.

Mr Dowden has previously confirmed that privatisation of Channel 4 was under examination in a review of public service broadcasting, however the consultation was not formally announced until Wednesday.

Channel 4 has been owned by the Government since its launch in 1982 and receives its funding from advertising.

The money generated is then used to commission independent producers to make programmes for the channel.

The consultation comes ahead of a Government White Paper on the future of broadcasting which is due in the autumn.

John Whittingdale MP has said that Channel 4 is under ‘quite strict limitations whilst it is in public ownership’.

He told Sky News the Government thought it was the ‘right time to think about what our future model for the ownership of Channel 4, which will make sure that it continues to go on providing very distinctive content and serving the public service remit which it has way into the future’.

Asked by Kay Burley why the Government would want to ‘get rid’ of Channel 4, Mr Whittingdale added: ‘We don’t want to get rid of it, we want to sustain it.

‘This is about making sure that it has a long-term future in a very different world to the one which most people are familiar with.’

Credit: Original article published here.

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