UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said she has not made a decision on the future of public service broadcaster Channel 4.
The UK broadcasting and production industry is worried about rumors from the UK government that it intends to sell the network.
Appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday, Dorries was asked if she would require a private Channel 4 owner to ‘maintain the same level of investment in Wales’ as he is currently spending in the area, to which she replied, “I can’t really speculate on that right now because I haven’t even decided if we’re going to go to that position yet.”
Referring to companies such as Amazon and Netflix, Dorries noted that “broadcasting and the digital landscape is evolving and changing” rapidly, which is why she was eyeing the broadcaster’s future. “I can’t look at where we are today with Channel 4, which I know is in a very good sustainable position, [I] I can’t look where we were yesterday. But what interests me is how it will survive in the future.
Saying that 17% of Channel 4’s advertising was for its digital content, Dorries said: ‘It’s not sustainable for a channel, going forward, so there are a number of things I’m going to have to a number of issues that I’m going to have to consider moving forward.
Dodging a question about Channel 4’s remit of risk-taking and diversity, which could be lost if the broadcaster were privatised, Dorries, born in Liverpool, instead spoke of the fact that her department was seen as “very people-focused”. London” and said: “I understand your concerns about the regions, and that’s really a philosophy…within 24 hours of the department coming in, I put my stamp on the department on this.
Sarah Healey, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, added: “It’s about looking at what this mission is which includes regional presence, and [if] Ministers are taking the decision to go ahead with a privatization option with Channel Four, so obviously we will have to work through the process of the obligations that would be imposed on the channel, and whether any changes would be made to its remit in this process.
Dorries added: “I would say that just because Channel 4 was established as a public service broadcaster, and just because it receives public funding, we should never audit the future of Channel 4 and we should never ever assess what Channel 4 looks like in the future, and whether or not it’s a sustainable and viable model – it’s only fair that the government does.
Dorries later clarified that she had meant public money rather than taxpayers’ money, since Channel 4 is a commercial operation and does not receive taxpayers’ money despite being a public broadcaster.
Healey also said that if Channel 4 is sold it will remain a public service broadcaster. “The Prime Minister has made it clear that his intention is to sell Channel 4 as a public service broadcaster, so that’s what bonds should do here,” she said.
Dorries was also asked about the pending appointment of a chairman of broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which she said she did not believe would be a disaster despite dragging on for most of 2021, and the decision by the Brit Awards to remove separate categories for male and female artists. “[It’s] a pretty sad decision,” Dorries said. “My concern would be that women are not fairly represented in the future.”