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Channel 4 is 'a great Thatcherite success' and should not be sold off

3 min read

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Grender writes following her Parliamentary question on 'Estimating the financial gains from privatising Channel 4'.

When leading advertisers tell you something is bad for business it is best to pay attention.  Channel 4 is unique in the UK as a non-profit public sector broadcaster.  It is diverse and creative but still generates over £1 billion a year in advertising.

Channel 4 funds more independent production companies than any other public sector broadcaster. That means small businesses producing great stuff like Gogglebox in the UK, which is exported worldwide. The Channel’s remit, to be innovative and distinctive means they take risks no other broadcaster can.

From diversity to disability they lead the way. They do this at no cost to the UK taxpayer. 

When Margaret Thatcher and Willie Whitelaw set up Channel 4 the vision was a creative greenhouse.  Which is why in my House of Lords question I asked how it is possible such a great Thatcherite success could be under threat of being sold to the highest bidder. We already know from David Cameron that the Government are considering such a move.

The question which was hardest to answer was: what is wrong with this Channel right now that needs fixing?  Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the Minister, struggled to answer.  Because the answer is simple, “nothing” is wrong or indeed needs fixing.

So then we know, this Channel is under threat because the Treasury wants some cash to pocket in a one off sale. What an appalling short term approach that would be. In the process losing a Channel that invests annually in well over 300 independent production companies.  Of which over 50% are commissioned from outside London with the highest levels of investment in the North of England. That’s your creative northern power house in action already George Osborne!

Thanks to Channel 4 and other public sector broadcasters our creative industries are global leaders. Generating annual income well beyond the quick one off hit George Osborne has put on his little list.

Handing Channel 4 over to a bunch of shareholders or a company with in-house production would in one move destroy what is so successful and unique about this Channel. No-one believes that a shareholder would allow some of the risks Channel 4 takes they would drive instead for a mass audience. In house production would remove Channel 4’s role as a clearing house for other independent production companies.

So when leaders in advertising say: “thanks but no thanks”. The Treasury and George Osborne would be well advised to drop this one-off car boot sale and instead continue to invest over the long term in an industry of which the UK should be rightly proud.

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Read the most recent article written by Baroness Grender - Lords Diary: Baroness Grender