Plans to privatize Channel 4 have been scrapped in what can be seen as a huge blow to former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and former PM Boris Johnson. Ms Dorries had said government ownership was “holding Channel 4 back”. However, her successor Ms Donelan has now said the broadcaster “should not be sold”, instead proposing other reforms because “change is necessary”.
Announcing the decision, the Department for Media, Culture, Digital and Sport, said: “Instead of a sale, the government has agreed to reforms to help Channel 4 grow and better compete in the age of streaming giants.
“Plans include allowing Channel 4 the flexibility to make some of its own content and a new legal duty to promote long-term sustainability whilst introducing protections to ensure they continue to be an incubator for the independent production sector.
“As part of this package, Channel 4 will now commit to doubling its planned number of new roles outside London and doubling its financial investment in skills.”
Yesterday, Ms Donelan wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the plans to sell Channel 4 to be scrapped.
While she acknowledged that there were “risks to the corporation’s long-term sustainability”, she argued “that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decision”.
She continued: “There are better ways to secure C4C’s [Channel 4 Corporation’s] sustainability and that of the UK independent production sector.
“Indeed, C4C’s role in supporting growth in our independent production sector, a sector which is currently worth around £3 billion to our economy, would be greatly disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities.”
Channel 4 welcomed the news, saying the latest decision will allow the broadcaster to be “even more of a power in the digital world”.
The plan to sell had faced opposition from company executives and much of the TV industry.
Ms Donelan said she had reached her decision “after reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors”.
Reacting to reports of the decision yesterday, Ms Dorries hit out at Mr Sunak’s government claiming that “three years of a progressive Tory government” are “being washed down the drain”.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Dorries said: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Leveling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down.”
She added: “A bonfire of EU [legislation], not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?”