The Daily Telegraph
Dowden to make the case for privatising Channel 4
CHANNEL 4 should not be underwritten “by a granny in Stockport or Southend”, the Culture Secretary will say today as he makes the Government’s case for privatisation.
Oliver Dowden will tell a gathering of television executives, including Channel 4’s chief executive, that the broadcaster requires significant investment if it is to compete against the likes of Netflix and Amazon. That money will have to come from the taxpayer or private investment – and the former is not an option that the Government is prepared to consider.
The Government has appointed US investment bank JP Morgan to advise on the possible privatisation process, Sky News reported last night.
The publicly owned broadcaster opposes privatisation and warned yesterday that “there is no evidence that the irreversible transfer of Channel 4 from the British public into private commercial hands will be of benefit to either British audiences or the UK economy, and may indeed cause them harm.”
However, in a speech to the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge today, Mr Dowden will claim that maintaining the current arrangement and relying on commercial revenue could be “an act of self-harm”.
The Culture Secretary is expected to say: “Right now, Channel 4 is in a stable position. But too many people are fixated on Channel 4’s current situation. I’m much more concerned with its long-term future. If Channel 4 wants to grow, then at some point soon it will need cash. Without it, Channel 4 won’t have the money to invest in technology and programming, and it won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants.
“The next obvious question: where does that cash come from? It can either come on the back of the taxpayer, or it can come from private investment.
“And it’s my strong position – as a point of principle – that I do not believe the borrowing of a commercial TV channel should be underwritten by a granny in Stockport or Southend.”
Instead, Mr Dowden will say, the Government could help Channel 4 “unlock that much-needed investment” while “protecting the parts of Channel 4 that none of us want to lose”.
In its written submission, Channel 4 said: “The evidence suggests that continued public ownership of Channel 4 would create the right conditions not only to overcome the audience and competitive challenges the Government has rightly identified, but also to ensure that public service broadcasting in the UK continues to thrive.”