ITV, Comcast, ViacomCBS and former Channel 4 chief executive Michael Grade are reportedly considering bidding for Channel 4 should the government decide to sell the broadcaster.
Grade is currently chairman of communications collective Miroma, founded by media entrepreneur Marc Boyan, which according to the Sunday Times is looking at the prospects for acquiring Channel 4 with bankers at Rothschild.
The former Channel 4 boss originally fought against the idea of privatising the channel, but changed his mind in 2015.
Earlier this month while giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee hearing into the future of Channel 4, Grade said: “The status quo is not an option. The time to change the nature of Channel 4 is now, before it falls over, before it succumbs to the inevitable decline.”
“It’s in a straitjacket of regulation and statutes, which completely prevented it from taking advantage of what it has achieved so far. The world has changed. The arguments for the status quo of backward looking back to an age of huge government intervention,” added Grade.
“I believe the best of Channel 4 in an acquisition, merger, consolidation move, will be preserved because the new owners would be mad to suddenly turn it into a sub-Channel 5 or aping ITV or whatever. It would be nonsense. It would be business insanity.”
Grade added: “The least risk is to set the channel free and follow what every free-to-air advertising supported broadcaster is doing in the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, ITV is also said to be preparing to throw its hat into the ring, as is Sky owner Comcast and ViacomCBS, which owns Channel 5.
The UK government is currently consulting on the future of Channel 4, with privatisation understood to be the preferred option. Ministers are said to have appointed JP Morgan to provide corporate finance advice on Channel 4’s potential change in ownership.
A number of senior industry voices have warned against privatisation, with Channel 4’s chief content officer Ian Katz stating it would “destroy the essence” of the broadcaster.