Bectu hosts webinar on the future of Channel 4 and public service broadcasting, alongside Claire Enders and Colin Browne

1 December 2021

On Tuesday, Bectu hosted a virtual panel discussion about what the potential privatisation of Channel 4 would mean for the public service broadcast landscape. Chaired by Head of Bectu Philippa Childs, the debate included a wide range of valued opinions and provided an insight into the evolving media landscape.

Channel 4 ident break

Speakers included Colin Browne from the Voice of the Viewer and Listener, and Claire Enders from Enders Analysis. Colin has extensive experience and knowledge of broadcasting and the media. He was Director, Corporate Affairs at the BBC from 1994-2000, and currently has his own company providing strategic communications advice. Claire is the founder of Enders Analysis and is the top independent analyst of the creative industries, the broadcast economy and digital exploitation models. MP Jo Stevens was also confirmed to be speaking but due to Monday’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, she unfortunately could no longer attend the event.

Bectu have enjoyed a constructive working relationship with Jo Stevens, a Shadow Culture Minister who championed the creative industries in all that she did. We wish her all the best in her new role as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and look forward to working closely with her successor Lucy Powell.

The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including the impact of privatisation on the creative economy and jobs of UK freelancers, the Government’s relationship with Channel 4 and whether a change of ministerial team would affect their approach, the recent House of Lords report from the Communications and Digital Committee, the BBC licence fee settlement and the 2022 Media Bill.

Claire Enders stated that the House of Lords report ‘lay down a marker to the government’ about the conditions in which Channel 4 should be privatised and focused her argument on protecting the most valuable aspects of Channel 4 and using new resources to better the network if it were to be taken from public ownership.

Colin Browne from the Voice of the Viewer and Listener discussed how the Government have failed to provide evidence as to why they are seeking to privatise Channel 4, raising the question as to why they wish to change the remit at all. He echoed the sentiments of the House of Lords committee, who criticised the government’s approach, stating ‘the government should have set out its vision for the future of public service broadcasting as a whole before examining what place Channel 4 should have in that ecosystem, and which business model it needs to realize that role’. You can read the full report here.

All speakers agreed with Claire Enders statement that ‘Channel 4 is absolutely the engine of distinctive voices’, with its unique remit allowing for the most creative and innovating programming and a diverse output.

Bectu remains deeply concerned that the proposed sale of Channel 4 would fundamentally damage the sector. With the creative industries amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, there is no worse time to introduce such uncertainty, particularly for independent producers. The sale of such a profitable network that gives so much to the UK’s broadcasting and independent production sector would be a real loss to the UK

Thank you to Philippa Childs, Colin Browne and Claire Enders, whose participation and invaluable contributions made for such an interesting discussion. You can watch the webinar here.