Plans to privatise Channel 4 to be scrapped by culture secretary, reports suggest

The Culture Secretary has written to Rishi Sunak recommending the government drops its plans to privatise Channel 4, according to reports.

Michelle Donelan’s predecessor Nadine Dorries announced the decision to take the broadcaster out of public ownership during former PM Boris Johnson’s premiership.

When Ms Dorries announced the plans, she said it was so the broadcaster can better survive in a media landscape dominated by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

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Ms Donelan, who was appointed culture secretary by Liz Truss and remained in the role after Mr Sunak took over as prime minister, had previously cast doubt on plans to privatise the broadcaster.

She had said she was re-examining the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

But a leaked letter written by Ms Donelan to Mr Sunak, seen by The News Agents podcast on Wednesday, allegedly reveals the culture secretary looks set to scrap the policy.

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A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation.

“The DCMS secretary of state has been clear that we are looking again at the business case for the sale of Channel 4. We will announce more on our plans in due course.”

Channel 4 was created in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and is entirely funded by advertising, out of public ownership. Everything it airs is commissioned from external production companies.

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Former culture secretary Ms Dorries criticised the reported move, tweeting: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down.

“A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?

“A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so. Where is the mandate – who voted for this?

“Will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments.”

But other Conservative MPs and members of the opposition parties have praised the apparent change of policy.

Former Tory minister Stephen Hammond said: “I have always thought that its commercial future can be more sustainably secured by a new mandate within the current model,” he posted on social media.

“This decision will ensure the independent UK production industry will continue to thrive and prosper.”

While fellow senior Conservative Simon Hoare added: “A welcome and excellent decision/recommendation by Michelle Donelan: If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it!”

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Conservatives’ vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy, and a complete waste of everyone’s time.

“Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this government has hamstrung them for the last year with the total distraction of Channel 4 privatisation.

“Labour opposed this sell off, and took a strong stand against it.

“The government must now bring forward the Media Bill to protect and promote Britain’s broadcasters in the streaming age.”

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone added that the plans to sell off Channel 4 were “nothing more than a culture war waged by a rash and reckless cabinet”.

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