Culture secretary

UK Culture Secretary slams ‘overblown’ and ‘inflammatory’ reaction to Channel 4 sale, management responds

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has slammed critics of her plan to sell broadcaster Channel 4. The plan has been decried by several unions and leading filmmakers in the media industry.

In a strongly worded column in The Mail on Sunday, Dorries wrote that the reaction to his plan was “as predictable as it was incendiary”. “Let’s drop the lazy, overworked, misinformed rhetoric of the Leftie luvvie lynching mob and take a cool look at the facts,” Dorries wrote.

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UK independent businesses are thriving and just 7% of industry revenue comes from Channel 4, Dorries wrote. As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 does not produce its own programs but commissions them each year from over 300 independent production companies across the UK. It is state-owned and ad-supported.

Dorries wrote that because of the way Channel 4 is owned it cannot create a back catalog to export, or have an in-house studio to create and sell content, adding that advertising is increasingly migrating online .

“Broadcasting is now a totally different and digital world. Streaming giants have exploded onto the scene, with juggernauts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus shaking up the old order,” Dorries wrote. “Netflix spent £779 million [$1 billion] on original UK productions in 2020 – more than double Channel 4.”

“In fact, Channel 4 has cut the amount it has spent on new content by £158m at a time when it should be investing in new programming, technology and skills,” Dorries added.

“For the record, C4’s revenue last year was the highest on record and this year they will spend more than ever on content. Some including @NadineDorries have cited lower spending in 2020, but that reflects the impact of Covid which has affected both production and revenues for all commercial broadcasters,” replied Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer of Channel 4.

Channel 4 will be sold to “a buyer who will fund emerging talent, independent and unbiased news, and invest in every corner of the UK”, Dorries wrote.

“The overreaction of the same people who snobbishly decried my appointment the moment I walked through the doors of my department won’t stop me,” Dorries added.

“Channel 4 is a distinct cultural asset that has created some of the best programming we’ve ever had the chance to watch,” Dorries wrote. “But his salad days are in the past.”

Meanwhile, in a Sunday Times column, Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon wrote: “We are already leading UK television in the transition from traditional advertising revenue to online advertising revenue, and we know that many many UK consumers want free content and are ready for the digital future. The plan we have proposed to the government as an alternative to privatization accelerates our existing digital strategy and multiplies the secondary benefits of public ownership, such as job creation and skills development outside of London – in places where private media companies generally do not invest.

“Others have pointed out that we are very different from Amazon and Netflix: they don’t try to compete with the shows we do in Hull or Derry or Leeds, nor do they send journalists in Ukraine. Basically, we suggested using more of our money to do more for Britain. Our plan to keep Channel 4 in public hands would provide 100,000 training places for young people outside London who would otherwise never have the chance to taste life in the media. It would start immediately, continue for the next decade and generate £2billion in value,” Mahon added.

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