The move could see profit valued over public service and endanger the network of independent production companies providing opportunities for filmmakers and scriptwriters across the UK.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, culture secretary Michelle Donelan signalled that the plans may be scrapped, saying “we do need to re-examine the business case and that’s certainly what I’m doing. We are […] making sure we still agree with that decision and that’s what I’m doing”.
The plan to privatise Channel 4, a publicly owned but commercially funded broadcaster, was published on 28 April 2022 as part of wider legislation on the future of broadcasting. The media bill was originally due to be published earlier in the year but was postponed until Autumn following drafting delays due to political uncertainty over the Summer.
With Tory MPs said to have been largely ambivalent over the sale, the case to oppose the privatisation of Channel 4 remains persuasive.
One key concern is that the broadcaster would pursue profits at the expense of public service duties if privatised, as it would no longer be bound to do so by law. One such duty that could be abandoned is a commitment to nurture new talent and diverse content, including the work of creators from underrepresented backgrounds.
Privatisation would threaten original, authentic productions by filmakers and scriptwriters which provide jobs in their local communities. It would risk damaging a cultural infrastructure that has fed £12bn into the UK independent sector since it’s inception and which is financially healthy, with bosses insisting it remains profitable and self sustaining.
The Society of Authors joins other unions and trade associations in strongly opposing the plan.