Saving Channel 4 from privatisation is essential to democracy


Categories: News

Plans by UK Government to sell-off C4 are ‘politically motivated” and “vindictive”

Today I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the Privatisation of Channel 4 and spoke about the real reasons why the Tory Government fears this independent channel and wants to see the end of it.

It’s because Channel 4 is the one thing that they fear most; a public service broadcaster which is delivering good, informed, wholly independent news; and one that makes people think and question and challenge what’s going on.

You can hear my contribution to the debate there and read my speech below.

“Thank you chair and can I thank the Right Honourable Member for Wallasey for securing this debate for which she rightly described as the wanton, cultural vandalism that the UK Government is planning.

The UK government’s plan to privatise Channel 4 is totally unjustified. It is politically motivated, and it is vindictive.
And I believe when viewed in the context of other legislation going through parliament around voter suppression, the right to peaceful protest, and undermining theelectoral commission… I think it is deeply worrying for our democracy.

Not only is it further evidence of a government which is allergic to criticism and terrified of independent scrutiny but it’s also one which is ideologically driven to undermine anything that proves public services can be delivered successfully by a publicly owned organisation.

By any measure, Channel 4 is and has been a success. 

It has more than met the remit it was given and, as we’ve heard, has been responsible for some of the greatest creative and commercial successes in UK television and film  in the past forty years. 

It has given creative opportunities to people and their ideas who otherwise would never have had their voice heard.

And it has taken a London-centric industry and reminded them that there is life on these islands beyond London.

In short, Channel 4 has achieved what it was asked to do and the viewers like what it does.

So why is this government so determine to change something which has been a demonstrable success?

It’s not for the money. 

Because of the way it is structured, Channel 4 hasn’t got shelves of tapes and a mountain of intellectual property-rights waiting to attract a potential buyer so, any money likely to be generated from a sale is in relative terms, minimal. 

It is also beyond credible to believe that the UK Government honestly believes that viewers will be better served by Channel 4 being subsumed into one of the huge international TV conglomerates.

Because as it’s currently constituted, Channel 4 can experiment with formats, it can take risks with new writers, and it can occasionally bomb…without having explaining to an angry accountant representing a consortium of international investors why profits are down this year?

And let’s be honest, not one of those multi-national TV giants going to give two hoots for the hugely successful model of spending outside of London and supporting independent film and television production in the nations and regions.  

The Government also know that despite OFCOM finding it was one of the most trusted media sources of information on the pandemic, no multi-national giant profit-driven international TV corporation is going to invest money and continue to support the multi-award-winning, Channel 4 News?

And that’s where this begins to make sense, becausein the absence of any commercial, creative or public interest reason for privatising Channel 4, one can only conclude their motivation is politically driven spite.

Because Channel 4 is the one thing that they fear most; a public service broadcaster which is delivering good, informed, wholly independent news; and one that makes people think and question and challenge what’s going on.

And unlike the BBC, Channel 4’s greatest strength is that it provides its public service remit without relying on UK government for its finance.

Unfortunately, its greatest strength has become its greatest weakness.

Because when you have a government that is gerrymandering the electoral map, curtailing citizen’s right to protest and removing the teeth from the country’s democratic watchdog, the last thing they want is an independent, non-compliant media.

And that, more than anything else explains why they are determined to privatise Channel 4, because what they know is if they privatise Channel 4 that it won’t come back… but hasn’t that been the UK government’s intention from the start?”