Culture secretary

Trade body chief urges new Culture Secretary to reconsider Channel 4 plans

J

The chief executive of a trade body has urged the new Culture Secretary to reconsider privatizing Channel 4 as he believes it is a ‘brilliant way to take advertisers’ private money and pour it into the economy British”.

Following Nadine Dorries’ resignation from her role on Tuesday, the chief executive of the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (Pact), which represents the independent television production sector, said it would be a “senseless decision to proceed with taking the broadcaster, which is entirely ad-supported, out of public ownership.

Liz Truss named Michelle Donelan as the new Culture Secretary on Tuesday night.

Earlier this year, the government announced plans to privatize Channel 4, arguing that the broadcaster will struggle to survive in a media landscape increasingly dominated by big streaming giants such as Netflix.

Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (James Manning/PA) / PA wire

At a press conference, Pact chief executive John McVay said Channel Four is “a brilliant way to take advertisers’ private money and pour it into the UK economy” and wondered whether changing this approach was a wise move given the state of the economy.

He said: “Is that really what you want to do as we are about to enter the worst cycle of inflationary recession we have seen since probably the 1970s?

“Is this really the best thing to do? Is it really at the top of your to-do list? To reject something that takes money, gives it to my members, 100% to SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) across the UK, and they put it in wages and intellectual property an opportunity and a global opportunity.

“It was pretty absurd 18 months ago, now it seems even more absurd.”

Mr McVay said Pact would urge the new culture secretary to ‘absolutely reconsider’ the privatization of Channel 4.

He added: “Take it out of the media law, get the legislation through because if Channel Four is still there there will be problems.

‘We will ensure this does not go through the Commons or the Lords on a warrant.’

Mr McVay said the subject could be revisited later, but said one of their consultants interviewed members of the Conservative Party who had just voted, largely for the new Prime Minister, and found that it was not on their priority list.

“That was basically the things the government should be focusing on,” he said.

“So if you listen to your members about becoming prime minister, listen to your members about priorities.”

It comes after more than 750 independent production companies in the UK last week signed an open letter to the future Prime Minister calling on them to end government plans to privatize Channel 4.

The letter suggested the switch to in-house production would cause the independent film and TV sector to lose £4.2billion over the next decade.

He added that production companies outside of London would be hit hard as current plans will see a reduction in Channel 4’s required level of spending in countries and regions.

Pact’s annual census, which was released on Wednesday, found TV production revenue was almost back to pre-Covid levels, rising 13% in 2021 to £3.251bn, or just £79m. pounds lower than pre-Covid earnings in 2019.

(Nick Ansell/PA) / PA Archives

The review said industry innovations along with the government’s production restart program meant that production was able to return to near full capacity.

He said the recovery had been helped by the resumption of many delayed productions from 2020.

The census also revealed that international business continued to be an important source of income for the UK in 2021, but was still down from 2020 figures, which Pact says could be partly attributed to disruption caused by Covid-19.

Revenue generated from the international digital commissioning of on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon also fell by £57million in 2021.

While UK digital commission revenue from platforms such as BBC iPlayer and All 4 grew in 2021 to £67m, up 191% on 2020. However, this does not represent only 3.6% of total primary commission revenue in the UK, as a significant percentage comes from linear TV channels. .