Baroness Bonham-Carter condemns plans to privatise Channel 4

Jane Bonham Carter, the Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson for DCMS has attacked government plans to sell off Channel 4, which “was created to be a disruptive, innovative force in UK broadcasting.”

The Conservative plans to try and sell off Channel 4 are disgraceful and will diminish the organisation.

By trying to put the broadcaster into private hands, they are jeopardising the huge range of diverse content that only Channel 4 produces – including the Paralympics. We know that private owners will push programmes that make the most money, meaning many quality shows could be scrapped if they don’t make enough profit.

Cuts to programming will hurt the thousands of independent content creators and small businesses who form the heart of the Channel 4 production network. It will also leave staff in their London and Leeds HQs, and their Glasgow and Bristol regional hubs, uncertain about their future.

The government should be championing British broadcasting, not seeking to diminish it. They must drop these dangerous plans and instead focus on supporting the creation of the high-quality British content made by Channel 4 and the other Public Service Broadcasters. 

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  • Gwyn Williams 4th Jul '21 - 12:01pm

    Although there will be public outrage at the loss of Gogglebox, Countdown and Bake off, and the serious loss of income from Channel 4 for small independent production companies throughout the country, I suspect another motive.
    Channel 4 has repeatedly and overtly challenged the present Government whether it was a dripping ice sculpture during the General Election climate change debate or Matt Lucas mimicking the PM after one of his Covid broadcasts. It highlights subjects on which the other broadcasters only touch. I sense that in an era of cancel culture and deplatforming this is a none too subtle way of neutering another public voice.

  • Brad Barrows 4th Jul '21 - 12:44pm

    The only thing I watch on Channel 4 is Channel 4 News, but at least it costs me nothing.

    What I object to is having to pay for a licence to finance the BBC – I would welcome BBC being privatised if that ended the licence requirement.

  • Baroness Bonham-Carter is correct.

    Why Brad Barrows would want a Channel 4 run by foreign multinational owners such as Murdoch (or RT ?) in an independent Scotland is beyond my comprehension.

  • jane bennett 4th Jul '21 - 2:42pm

    I agree with her on Channel 4, it’s a disgrace and am totally against any privatisation of the BBC. It has maintained quality programming by being publicly funded and I do not want to watch TV or listen to radio cluttered with commercials and advertising and am happy to continue paying the licence fee. That’s what funding public services is all about either taxation of in the case of the BBC the licence fee.

  • nigel hunter 4th Jul '21 - 2:50pm

    Gwyn, you are correct.
    The BBC would be better served if its boards were all independently chosen by non vested interested people and organisations

  • Channel 4 is blatantly biased, a position that I find unacceptable in a service funded by the public, regardless of the direction of their bias. It just seems disgracefully parasitic to me. I do not watch the Channel and would not even notice if it disappeared all together.

    The BBC is more subtle and more complex but I came to the conclusion about a decade ago that the BBC is long beyond reform. I say that with great sadness, but a great many management teams, and the BBC never has a shortage of these, have failed dismally to reform the Corporation.

    It has lost the trust of the public, it has lost the will and the ability to provide entertainment and it has too many campaigns and agendas to pretend it is independent. I no longer watch the BBC either, so it is another lost cause that I would not miss.

  • john oundle 5th Jul '21 - 11:41am

    Both privatizing Channel 4 & eliminating the BBC ‘poll’ tax are long overdue.

    If the ‘love’ of the BBC is so immense as we are repeatedly told then it will be overwhelmed with subscribers.

  • @John Oundle – there is no BBC “poll tax”; the UK government requires you have a TV licence if you want to watch live TV (from any source) on any device (including a mobile phone).

    The myth of the BBC poll tax should serve as a warning to anyone who recommends that taxes from any specific source should be earmarked eg. 1p on income tax for the NHS.

  • Stepping back a little, I note the BBC’s Royal Charter expires in 2027 and that the government and BBC are in negotiations about funding levels for 2022-2027 which will impact the licence fee that the government will set and permit the BBC to collect…

    So suspect we will be hearing more about ‘privatisation’ in the coming months as the politicians start to unravel the existing media setup and funding model (is it reasonable to expect a ‘privatised’/self-funding BBC to fund Channel 4?). The risk I suggest is, given what we’ve seen todate, Westminster doesn’t given this its full attention and thus recommends an ill thought through privatisation package.

  • Brad Barrows 5th Jul '21 - 5:22pm

    I don’t like biased TV channels like RT and CNN but I have the choice not to watch them and also the choice not to pay towards them. The difference with the BBC is that while I can choose not to watch, I still have to pay towards the BBC if I wish to watch any rival channel.

  • Christopher Clayton 6th Jul '21 - 1:20pm

    Although we should look for reforms to how they are financed I think we should be strongly opposed to privatising either the BBC or Channel 4. In different ways they both provide a public service with features which are distinct from the misnamed ‘independent’ channels. Even the latter are much better than those in the USA which mainly voice the profitability of populism, extremism and big money politics. Perhaps our commercial channels are better partly because they are being set a standard which influences them? It is bad enough having to live with so many excessively partisan national newspapers, with little respect for truth or balance and little interest in the center left social liberalism of our Party and the Greens (apart from The Guardian). Do we really only want TV and Radio Channels which are like the Daily Mail and (the late) News Of The World?

  • On Channel 4 – to be clear it is funded by advertising and makes a surplus. Personally I think that all the different forms of funding offer something different – fully commercial free to air, licence fee, subscription etc. FTA but not public service, Channel 4’s model etc.

    The most likely outcome if it is sold off would be that something like the American network CBS that owns Channel 5 would buy it and there would be a lot more American programmes on it (and to be fair there are a fair number at the moment).

    Despite quite a lot of filler and it has something like 10%-20% the budget of the BBC there are a lot of unique things that Channel 4 offers and even if a similar remit was set down in legislation we all know there is a difference between a commercial operator trying to get round things and make as much profit as possible – and people with a real passion to deliver things in the spirit and not just the letter of things and not just make a profit.

    C4 deals for example with far more and smaller independent producers than the BBC or ITV – I believe about 120- many outside London and in the regions and some really small and that number would probably shrink as its difficult and somewhat expensive to do so. And there are a lot of films and programmes over the years that it has produced that the BBC would have found too edgy but have been important and ITV etc. would think not commercial enough and too risky – e.g. Queer as Folk.

    It is the most liked channel ahead of the BBC channels and it has a reach of 75% and an audience share of 10% so it must be offering something different and doing something right – why change it? And ironically it was set up by Thatcher to support small businesses of independent producers and indeed break ITV’s inefficient monopoly as well as to serve unserved and underserved audiences and it still has an important role to play in that.

    Channel 4 News is something of a red herring – I think it gets less than half a million viewers so presumably some 55 million plus do NOT watch it – and there’s always GB News now if you must! And whether the requirement for “due impartiality” should be kept or not for all broadcasters is a different question….

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