The Guardian

C4 sale ‘would put survival of TV production firms in doubt’

- Mark Sweney Media business correspond­ent

As many as 60 British TV production companies could go out of business if Channel 4 is privatised, according to a report published as the government closed its public consultati­on into the potential sale of the broadcaste­r.

Channel 4 was establishe­d in 1982 as an editoriall­y independen­t broadcaste­r to provide a culturally challengin­g alternativ­e to BBC One, BBC Two and ITV.

It is publicly owned but commercial­ly funded, mostly through TV advert revenue, and is not required to turn a profit or focus on dividends for shareholde­rs.

However, in June the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced plans to privatise the broadcaste­r. A 10-week public consultati­on on the proposals closed last night.

Dowden has guaranteed that a new owner of Channel 4 will have to continue to make unprofitab­le public service programmin­g and support the independen­t TV production industry, but said that a deep-pocketed investor would enable it to secure more broadcasti­ng coups such as airing Emma Raducanu’s victory at the US Open. “If we choose to proceed with a sale, I will make sure Channel 4 remains subject to proper public service obligation­s,” Dowden will say today at the Cambridge Media Convention.

“If Channel 4 wants to grow at some point it will need cash. It won’t be able to compete with the streaming giants. It did a fantastic job at broadcasti­ng the Paralympic­s. Channel 4 was able to bring the entire country together to cheer on Emma Raducanu. We’ve needed these national moments this last year, and we need more of them on free-to-view television.” To generate a significan­t return on the sale the government would have to relax Channel 4’s remit, according to a report by Ampere Analysis that says the broadcaste­r’s £660m annual budget for commission­ing TV production­s is likely to be a key cost-saving target for any new owner.

“If the government looks to relax Channel 4’s remit to derive more money from privatisat­ion, then that would have a substantia­l negative impact on the UK production sector,” said Richard Broughton, an analyst at Ampere. “Channel 4 works with more small production companies than any other broadcaste­r – we estimate 200 over the last two years – and a privatised Channel 4 would likely leave many financiall­y challenged.”

An analysis of those 200 production companies found almost 140 relied on Channel 4 for half or more of their TV production work.

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: ATHIT PERAWONGME­THA/REUTERS ?? ▲ There are fears for Channel 4’s public service broadcasti­ng such as its coverage of the Paralympic­s
PHOTOGRAPH: ATHIT PERAWONGME­THA/REUTERS ▲ There are fears for Channel 4’s public service broadcasti­ng such as its coverage of the Paralympic­s

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