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UK government weighs Channel 4 privatisation

Calling UK public service broadcaster Channel 4 a 'great Conservative innovation', British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that 'private investment into Channel 4 could help safeguard it for the future'.

Calling UK public service broadcaster Channel 4 a ‘great Conservative innovation’, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that ‘private investment into Channel 4 could help safeguard it for the future’.

Responding to questions from the SNP during prime minister’s questions, Cameron said he was a ‘huge fan of Channel 4’ but has not ruled out the possibility of privatising the channel. Channel 4 is owned by the British public, but is commercially self-funding.

‘Let’s have a look at all the options,” said Cameron. “Let’s not close our minds like some on the Opposition frontbench who think that private is bad and public is good. Let’s have a proper look at how we can make sure this great channel goes on being great for many years to come.’

In September, after government denials that there were no plans to sell off the broadcaster, documents were inadvertently photographed which appeared to show that talks were already underway.

Michael Dugher MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, responded to the Prime Minister: ‘The Government has been misleading the public on their plans to privatise Channel 4 for months. First they said that ownership of Channel 4 was not “under debate” and now the Prime Minister has finally come clean that they are drawing up options for privatisation.

“Channel 4 produces distinct and important public content and the broadcaster should remain not-for-profit. An ideological sale of Channel 4 is clearly not in the public interest. Labour will continue to stand up for Channel 4 and oppose any reckless attempts to privatise it.”

At the 2014 MacTaggart lecture at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television festival, Channel 4’s chief executive David Abraham said: ‘This special landscape of ours did not happen by accident. So we should not assume that, left purely to the market, it will continue to thrive. If you care about creativity, speak up and speak up now. Stay silent and our special system may wither. Once gone, it will never come back.’

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