New Culture Secretary LIZ Truss has hinted the government may drop plans to privatize Channel 4.
Michelle Donelan said ministers would review the ‘business case’ to ensure ‘we are still on board with this decision’.
However, she also suggested the government would re-examine BBC licensing fees to see if they were ‘really sustainable in the long term and provide that element of choice to the general public’.
His predecessor, Nadine Dorries, announced the £1billion sale of Channel 4 just five months ago, saying government ownership prevented it ‘from competing with streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon’ .
The channel has a unique funding structure, in that it is state-owned, but fully commercially funded, earning its money through advertising.
Launched 40 years ago under the Thatcher government, it has a public service mission that commits it to working with independent producers and making programs for younger and more diverse audiences.
Ms Dorries announced she was leaving the cabinet earlier this month after Ms Truss won the race to replace Boris Johnson.
Ms Donelan told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Ms Truss’ government was ‘in particular looking at the business case for selling Channel 4 and making sure we were still on board with that decision’.
She added: “I’m the kind of politician who bases his decisions on evidence, who bases his decisions on listening and that’s what I will be doing over the next few weeks.
“I will take this approach with regard to Channel 4 and every aspect of my memoir.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, when asked if there was ‘a bit of wiggle room’ regarding the sale, she insisted: ‘I think it just means I’m looking at the business case , but I’ll let you know once I’ve done it.
On the BBC’s funding model, Ms Donelan said: “It is no secret that I have long been skeptical of license fees and that we need to ensure that the BBC is viable in the long term. So I watch this in the round.
“I’m someone who listens, I’m someone who decides policy based on evidence and that’s what I will be doing over the next few weeks.”
She declined to say outright whether licensing fees should be scrapped, but said rival streamer TV services such as Netflix and Amazon have raised questions about whether “the current model the BBC uses is actually sustainable. long term and provides that element of choice. to the general public”.
Earlier she praised the BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s funeral and admitted that online streaming services would not provide this type of live broadcast.
She said: “I think the BBC have done a wonderful job over the last few days and nobody could blame them. I went to see the operation and it was phenomenal and made everyone put their heads down and put public service first throughout and they did it, on the spot,” he said. she declared.
“It showed the true value of the BBC, but for me it means it’s even more important to make sure the BBC is sustainable in the long term.”
In January, Ms Dorries announced licensing fees would be frozen at £159 for the next two years until April 2024.
She said she wanted to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 because it was “completely outdated”.
The review was due to start before the Commons summer recess on July 22 but was thrown into doubt after Mr Johnson stepped down as Tory leader.
John McVay, chief executive of Pact, the trade body for independent television and film production companies, said: “The new Prime Minister has made it clear that his priority is to drive growth.
“Privatizing Channel 4 would do the opposite, jeopardizing the future of thousands of UK production companies and jeopardizing the future prospects of a thriving industry across the country.
“It literally makes no sense to try to find a solution to a problem that does not exist and that is why I am delighted that the new Culture Secretary has pledged to re-examine the business case for the privatization of Channel 4.”
Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.