The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

CMF Fights Privatisation of Channel 4

With the arrival of Nadine Dorries (of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here...' fame) as the new Secretary of State at the DCMS, the plan to privatise Channel 4 is still very much on the government agenda - despite a huge range of expert individuals, trade unions and industry bodies lining up against the proposals. This includes a significant number of independent production companies who have have been vocal that the idea will cost jobs, reduce investment, and place companies at risk - especially in the nations and regions.  CMF has also come down firmly in opposition. As indeed has CMF Lifetime Patron Russell T Davies in a recent interview about Dorries and the government agenda.

The government say this is all about freeing up Channel 4 to be more competitive as advertising revenues inevitably decrease over time. They want to put the organisation in private hands so that it can borrow to finance growth - which is not possible while it is under public ownership. We think the logic is flawed.

CMF responded to the DCMS consultation on the privatisation plans and to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee Inquiry on the Future of Channel 4. In both cases we stressed that it seemed unlikely, despite government assurances,  that a commercial buyer would adhere to public service commitments in the long term, and that minority, regional and in particular young people's programmes would suffer.

CMF accepts there are challenges ahead for Channel 4. We appreciate that the decline in advertising revenue is of concern, and might lead over time to a diminished service, lower production values and further loss of audience to rich international competitors. We don't advocate limiting its growth and ambition, but as an essential contributor to the UK’s public service eco-system, with special importance for young people, it must remain in public ownership, with its public service commitments intact.

Providing the Channel 4 Corporation with the capacity to grow becomes meaningless if it cannot continue to serve the British public as a uniquely British brand.

 

We suggested the government should seek more innovative ways of ensuring Channel 4’s future and offered suggestions to provide greater investment in Channel 4 content through extension of the Young Audiences Content Fund, financed by levies on the streaming platforms.

The government-supported Young Audiences Content Fund is a prime example of how market failure can be addressed by a publicly funded initiative. Channel 4 has been a beneficiary of the Fund and could benefit further from a broader-based plan to support public service content in the future.

 

The DCMS consultation closed on 14 September. The government will announce their reactions to the consultation responses in due course. You can read the full CMF submission here.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)