Culture secretary

Sale of Channel 4 ‘under review’ in this Parliament, says Culture Secretary

Oliver Dowden said there was reason to consider the best future operating model ‘for the public broadcaster, which is largely commercially self-funded

Ministers are considering selling Channel 4 as part of a review of public service broadcasting.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said a decision on whether or not to privatize the broadcaster could be taken in this parliament.

Channel 4 was launched in 1982 as a largely commercially self-funded public service broadcaster.

Mr Dowden told MPs yesterday (THURS) that the rapid expansion of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ meant ministers needed to review its future.

“I think there is reason to consider the best future operating model for Channel 4,” he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.







Channel 4 broadcasts popular shows such as Great British Bake-Off
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Picture:

Channel 4)


“It will be one of the things we will consider in legislation in the next session.

“We would also look at video on demand and if there are any other reforms that need to take place there.”

When asked if they were considering the privatization of Channel 4, he replied: “It is one of the options which is being studied, yes.”

Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.

Mr Dowden also suggested the government could step in to help struggling festivals if they cannot get commercial insurance.

He told the committee his aim was to reach June 21 – the final milestone on the roadmap – when the remaining Covid restrictions could be lifted.







Festivals like Glastonbury have been suspended due to the pandemic
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Picture:

Getty Images)


If festivals cannot take place after that time, the government could step in, he said.

Mr Dowden told MPs: ‘Once we get to this point, while it is true that events still cannot play out due to a lack of insurance and the failure of the insurance market commercial, we are prepared to examine whether we can use government intervention in exactly the same way as we have done with the film industry.

He added: “First we have to know that something can go forward. If the final hurdle to prevent this from happening is lack of trade assurance, that is when we would consider taking action.

But Tory MP Heather Wheeler said it was ‘too late’ for many festivals, adding: ‘I just think we’ve probably lost another summer because they can’t get insurance.’

Meanwhile, Mr Dowden also confirmed that talks over hosting the Champions League final in England had stalled as UEFA wanted to bring 2,000 people for the game.

He said the government was “unable to assure UEFA that we would be willing to change our quarantine rules as they wished”.

“They wanted to bring a lot of people to the game, it’s okay, it’s the question of the quarantine, he said.

“We expect people entering the UK, except in very, very exceptional circumstances, to abide by quarantine rules.”

When asked if UEFA would reduce the number of guests, he said: “It’s up to UEFA to answer these questions. We had a very constructive discussion with UEFA and it was a real difference that could not be overcome.

“I respect the decision taken by UEFA and I think they respect the fact that the government has not been able to act.”

Asked about the number of people, he replied: “It was 2,000.”