The Daily Telegraph

Dowden to make the case for privatisin­g Channel 4

- By Anita Singh Arts And Entertainm­ent Editor

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom