Channel 4 Privatization Nixed


The U.K. government has confirmed that Channel 4 will not be sold, instead opting for a series of reforms to help the broadcaster compete in the streaming age.

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), announced the decision following a business case review. The new plans for Channel 4 will allow for flexibility in making and monetizing its own content, along with a new requirement to promote long-term sustainability while introducing protections to ensure it remains an incubator for the independent production sector.

Channel 4 will commit to doubling its planned number of roles outside of London from 300 to 600 by 2025 and its investment in skills development from £5 million to £10 million. DCMS will also make it easier for Channel 4 to draw down on its £75 million credit facility.

“Like all U.K. broadcasters, Channel 4 is currently facing unprecedented competition for viewers, programs and talent in an era of wealthy, global streaming platforms,” DCMS said in a statement. “The DCMS Secretary of State has decided that pursuing a sale is not the best option to ease the challenges facing Channel 4 nor to support growth in the U.K.’s creative economy, especially the independent production sector. However, doing nothing also carries risks and the government believes change is necessary to ensure the corporation can thrive now and long into the future in a rapidly changing media landscape.”

Donelan noted: “Channel 4 is a British success story and a linchpin of our booming creative industries. After reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors I have decided that Channel 4 should not be sold. This announcement will bring huge opportunities across the U.K. with Channel 4’s commitment to double their skills investment to £10 million and double the number of jobs outside of London. The package will also safeguard the future of our world leading independent production sector. We will work closely with them to add new protections such as increasing the amount of content C4C must commission from independent producers.”

Channel 4 said it welcomed the decision, noting the reforms provide “a firm basis on which to establish the sustainable direction of Channel 4, safely in the hands of the British people.”

The Channel 4 statement continued: “For over 40 years Channel 4 has been a keystone of Britain’s universal, free, public service broadcasting architecture. We have spoken up for diverse and young audiences across the U.K., nurtured new talent and held power to account. But standing still has never been an option for Channel 4 throughout our history. Indeed, our next stage of evolution is already well under way. In more recent years we have extended a digital embrace to Britain’s young people. We have invested more in creative production companies in their own communities, the length and breadth of the UK. We have put record amounts into TV and film content, consistently showing original, relevant and challenging television. In the future we will double our investment in 4Skills, training a new cohort of TV professionals from all places and all backgrounds. We are determined to make it true that neither where you live nor what your parents do are barriers to a career in our extraordinary industry.”

Alex Mahon, chief Executive of Channel 4, said: “The principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world. Channel 4 is innovative, editorially brilliant and loved by audiences that others don’t reach, most of all the young and underrepresented. In the analogue world, we did this spectacularly. Now, in the digital era, we are doing it again. Working with the world-leading TV and film producers of the U.K., we continue to give birth to ideas that thrill audiences and change perspectives globally.

“Five years ago, we committed to representing the whole of the U.K. on screen and to growing our impact across the Nations and Regions. Most recently, we took on the job of removing obstacles for young people who thought a career in this industry was somehow not for them. I am personally delighted that we will be able to do more, making positive change for the people that others don’t fight for. We will move faster, invest more, take more risks, break down barriers and push boundaries; getting up to do that every day is an utter privilege for those of us lucky enough to work at Channel 4.”