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 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.”