The debate over the future of Britain’s commercially funded Channel 4 pubcaster has heated up over the weekend, with its CEO Alex Mahon and UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries making their case in national newspapers.
It was announced last week that Dorries had given the go-ahead for Channel 4 to be privatized by the UK government, despite strong industry opposition to the move.
ITV, Sky and Discovery are said to be among those interested in buying the channel, which is behind shows such as It’s a sin, and is expected to sell for around £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
write in The Sunday Mail Yesterday Dorries slammed critics of the plan as a ‘leftist lynching mob’ who ‘refuse to accept what is best for British TV’.
Dorries said UK indies are booming, with just 7% of industry revenue coming from Channel 4, noting that “because of the way Channel 4 is owned it cannot create a catalog to export , or having an in-house studio to create and sell content. Instead, it relies almost entirely on advertising, which increasingly migrates online.”
While describing the channel as a “digital asset”, Dorries said “her salad days are a thing of the past”.
She wrote: “It is time to look to an adult future in the context of a digital future. We believe we can sell Channel 4 to a buyer who will fund emerging talent, independent and unbiased news, and invest in every corner of the UK,” adding: “It would be irresponsible for any government to sit down and allow the status quo to continue.”
Meanwhile, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon wrote his own article for the Sunday timein which it reaffirmed its firm opposition to the proposed sale.
She wrote: “We are already leading UK TV in the transition from traditional advertising revenue to online advertising revenue, and we know that many UK consumers want free content and are ready for the digital future. The plan we have proposed to the government as an alternative to privatization accelerates our existing digital strategy and multiplies the secondary benefits of public ownership, such as job creation and skills development outside of London – in places where private media companies generally do not invest.
“Others have pointed out that we are very different from Amazon and Netflix: they don’t try to compete with the shows we do in Hull, Derry or Leeds, nor do they send journalists in Ukraine.
“Essentially we suggested using more of our money to do more for Britain. Our plan to keep Channel 4 in public hands would provide 100,000 training places for young people outside London who would otherwise never have the chance to taste life in the media. It would start immediately, continue for the next decade and generate £2billion in value.