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Tory MPs call on government to “leave Channel 4 alone”

Conservatives clash over plans to privatise the broadcaster

Senior Conservative MPs have called on the government to abandon its plans to privatise Channel 4 in a “strongly worded letter” to Boris Johnson, according to The Guardian.

The MPs – including former culture secretary Karen Bradley, ex-cabinet minister Damian Green and chair of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat – insisted Channel 4 was a successful part of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy and that the prime minister should “leave it alone.”

“Margaret Thatcher created Channel 4 as a publicly owned, non-profit public sector broadcaster that would act as an incubator for independent, risk-taking, innovative private sector companies,” said the letter. “She had a vision to level up the broadcasting landscape and she succeeded spectacularly well. We should maintain her legacy, not put it at risk.”

The signatories also described the channel as “self-sufficient and successful, making no drain on the public purse,” meaning plans for a change of ownership are unnecessary.

“It is in many ways an engine of small production company growth outside the M25, giving a platform to regional businesses, which we should be nurturing and growing,” the letter continued. “Regional voices have long struggled to break into the broadcasting landscape; Channel 4’s current ownership structure ensures more will be heard.

“In doing this, it plays a crucial role in supporting British businesses in one of the UK’s most internationally successful and iconic industries. To put it simply: Channel 4 isn’t broke, and doesn’t need fixing.”

The debate follows culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ plans to overhaul funding of the BBC, having confirmed that the licence lee would be frozen until 2024.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is pursuing Channel 4’s privatisation to protect it from streaming competition, though the channel’s defenders speculate that the broadcaster’s perceived anti-Conservative bias is among the real reasons for the reforms.

A DCMS spokesperson responded: “We value Channel 4’s contribution to levelling up and are clear its public service broadcasting remit and our commitment to independent regional productions would continue following any potential sale.

“There is a wealth of evidence on the challenges for linear TV broadcasters, and it is right we consider a change in ownership to support Channel 4’s long-term sustainability. This could allow more and quicker investment in creative content and platforms to support the wider creative industries.”