Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has made another embarrassing gaffe – wrongly telling a radio host that Channel 5 was ‘privatized a few years ago’.
Speaking about a government white paper to privatize Channel 4, the Tory minister praised Channel 5 in an interview with LBC. She told presenter Iain Dale that Channel 5 had brought in strong regional investment since its “privatisation”.
Ms Dorries said: “Do you know who has done this very well since they were privatized a small number of years ago, I think it was three years ago, maybe five years ago Channel 5. If you look at the amount of investment Channel 5 puts into the regions and how much Channel 5 has done since it was privatized I think that’s a pattern I call Channel 5 an upgrade diffuser.
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But Pink News CEO Benjamin Cohen pointed out on Twitter: “I like the way Nadine Dorries justifies the privatization of Channel 4 by saying that Channel 5 was privatized 3-5 years ago. Channel 5 was launched in 1997 as a private company following an auction of franchises. but I guess you couldn’t expect the culture secretary to know that.”
The minister replied: “Yes, I misspoke – it was in 2014 when Viacom bought C5 – a public service broadcaster – which led to an increase in private investment, not a few years ago! However, the gist of my point remains exactly the same. But, you choose it if that’s what really makes you happy.”
Mr Cohen replied: “You said ‘privatized’ twice. It was never owned by the state. That’s not a misunderstanding. That doesn’t understand your memory at all. May I ask you if you want C4 to belong in the United States like C5 then?”
Ms Dorries then accused Mr Cohen of having ‘no interest’ in selling Channel 4, saying he was only interested in ‘attacking it personally’. But Mr Cohen replied: “I have an interest. I have worked for Channel 4 News and am the CEO of a UK-based digital media company that reaches over 100 million users around the world. world with most of our users in the US. …I would also say that someone pointing out a huge factual error in what you said should have seen you humbly correcting yourself, rather than blocking and unblocking someone one who literally runs one of the fastest growing companies in the industry you seek to represent on the firm.”
This is not the first time Ms Dorries has shown a fragile understanding of the model of a major broadcaster. When asked about the future of Channel 4 at a select committee hearing last year, she falsely claimed the commercially-funded channel receives public money.
Unveiling the white paper, Ms Dorries said Channel 4’s ownership model presented ‘serious challenges’ which restricted its growth and anyone ‘choosing to make them redundant’ was ‘having their head in the sand’. She told MPs that public ownership prevented the broadcaster from “compete with streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.
A press release on the white paper said the consultation on the future of Channel 4 drew 56,293 responses. The government statement acknowledged that “a significant number of responses to the consultation disagreed that there are challenges in today’s television broadcasting market which present barriers to a sustainable Channel 4 under public ownership”. Several prominent Tories have spoken out against the plans, including former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: ‘I’m not in favor of it because I think as it stands Channel 4 is competing at the BBC on what is called public service broadcasting – the kinds of programs that are not commercially viable – and I think it would be a shame to lose that.
Ms Dorries also spoke of her desire to end BBC licensing fees and replace them with a new funding model after 2027. You can read more about that here.