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Government Plans To "Re-Examine" Case For Selling Off Channel 4

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has said ministers will “re-examine the business case” for selling Channel 4 (Alamy)

2 min read

New Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has said ministers plan to “re-examine the business case” for selling Channel 4, a proposal that had caused severe backlash within industry when suggested by Nadine Dorries.

Dorries, who headed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in Boris Johnson's government until recently, claimed that public ownership was holding back the channel from competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon and was planning legislation for its privatisation. 

The proposal sparked outrage among a number of Tory grandees and media figures.

But now her successor Donelan said she is “making sure that we still agree” with the decision to take the broadcaster out of public ownership. 

"We do need to reexamine the business case, and that's certainly what I'm doing,” she told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on Tuesday. 

Donelan described herself as “the type of politician that bases their decisions on evidence, that bases their decisions on listening," after questions were raised over whether the controversial Channel 4 plans would still go ahead under new Prime Minister Liz Truss. 

“I will take that approach when it comes to Channel 4 and every aspect of my brief,” she added.  

The MP for Chippenham also said she is a “sceptic” when it comes to the BBC licence fee, which has also been a point of contention among senior ministers. 

She noted that the broadcaster’s “tremendous” work following the death of Queen Elizabeth II means that “it’s even more important that we make sure the BBC is sustainable in the long term”. 

“I went to see their operation and it was phenomenal, and required everybody to really get their heads down and prioritise public service and throughout this period,” Donelan continued. 

“They did that spot on, it was incredible.” 

But she appeared to question the current funding model of the broadcaster, similarly comparing it to private subscription giants Amazon and Netflix. 

"It does make you question whether in the long term, in a modern age where the media landscape is changing so remarkably, then, is it sustainable?," she asked. 

Donelan’s new brief will also include the Online Safety Bill which has sparked concerns over how its proposed powers to make tech firms tackle harmful content will impact on free speech. 

She said that ministers “need to make sure that we’ve got the balance right” in the legislation. 

“We're a government that will make bold decisive decisions but if there's things that need to be revisited, we certainly won't shy away from them,” she added.

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