Privatising Channel 4 is another swipe from a government determined to undermine public service broadcasting

Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu · 5 April 2022

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ announcement that she is pushing ahead with controversial plans to privatise Channel 4 is another ideological swipe at a highly successful cultural asset.

The broadcaster is a major success story, consistently pushing the boundaries of entertainment and thought-provoking content for British audiences. This success is built on the back of the current model, which supports a thriving independent production sector and allows commissioners a degree of risk and creativity, of which the viewing public reap the benefits.

It’s not just the quality content that proves its value – the numbers speak for themselves. The broadcaster’s unique remit allows it to directly invest £12 billion into the UK production industry, creating 10,000 jobs in the supply chain, 1/3 of these being in the nations and regions.

It is a completely self-sustaining broadcaster, that invests 100% of its revenue back into the organisation, at no cost to the taxpayer. After 40 years in public ownership, the Government now wants to prioritise the interests of shareholders ahead of public service. It has no time for facts, preferring to put ideology ahead of sense.

It is willing to ignore the 60,000 responses to its own consultation, and fierce opposition from the industry, and is yet to present any evidence that a change in ownership would benefit both Channel 4 or the public.

This short sighted and destructive move deals a major blow to the UK’s creative sector, the creative economy and jobs of UK freelancers. We will not let it pass unchallenged.

With the creative industries amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, and continuing to face a chronic skills shortage, there is no worse time to introduce such uncertainty, particularly for independent producers. We know the future of Channel 4 is important to the public and our members, both those directly employed by the broadcaster and the many freelancers who also rely on it for employment.

While we cannot be certain of the broadcaster’s future in the hands of a careless government, we will do everything we can to support, protect and advocate for the jobs it creates, their terms and conditions, and the invaluable cultural service it provides to the UK.

When will this government stop its ideological crusade on our cultural assets? Its decision to go ahead with the privatisation of Channel 4 is nothing short of cultural vandalism, and we will continue to oppose it every step of the way.

Make no mistake – selling off such a profitable network that gives so much to the UK’s broadcasting and independent production sector will have major consequences for the UK broadcasting landscape. Channel 4 costs the UK tax payer precisely nothing, yet gives us a thriving independent production sector, thousands of jobs and world-renowned, innovative content. Why is the Government attacking it?