Let’s defend the underdog – Channel 4


If you’ve tuned your telly to Channel 4 recently, there’s a good chance you would have seen a dog in a suit, interviewing Channel 4 stars about the virtues of the channel. You can see the ‘Underdog’ advert here.

The underdog hears from the likes of Adam Hills and Jon Snow about how Channel 4 is able to offer alternative views and take risks, because of its not-for-profit status as a publically owned station.

So why does Channel 4 feel the need to advertise to justify its own existence?

The privatisation of Channel 4 is a genuine worry under a Tory government. The current culture secretary is right-winger John Whittingdale, who actually proposed privatising the channel as far back as 1996 with an amendment to the broadcasting bill. Reporting of Whittingdale’s appointment as culture secretary has focused on what this might mean for the BBC, but it is likely Channel 4 is firmly in his crosshairs too.

As liberals we should care what happens to Channel 4. By being not for profit, Channel 4 can afford to take risks and cover subjects that private channels never could. I think that we as a party should come out in support of the channel staying under the public’s ownership.

Whether they’re making programmes imagining UKIP winning the election, televising autopsies, making documentaries about Gypsies and Psychopaths, competing with the Queen, or just experimenting with new formats, Channel 4 are doing things other channels just can’t do.

Channel 4 gives a voice to the minority. That’s liberalism.

Channel 4 challenges the status quo and offers alternative viewpoints. That’s liberalism.

Channel 4 takes risks, thinks outside the box, and does so for the benefit of everybody. That’s liberalism.

As liberals we should always be sceptical of state involvement in anything, but when something works, when something’s good, let’s support it.

The manner in which Channel 4 exists is not a big issue like healthcare, the economy, or education. Comparatively it’s a little thing. But it’s the little things that make up life, and I think we should be sticking up for Channel 4 in its current form.

Protecting Channel 4 is not currently an issue on the political agenda, but we should put it there. We have the chance to be the party that supports Channel 4. We need to connect with voters, and show them what we stand for. Supporting Channel 4 is a small but relatable issue, and something we can do to demonstrate what liberalism stands for.

* Bryn Jones has been a member since 2009

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I would say that what Channel 4 has done with regards to the traveller communities isn’t liberalism, especially as it pays into the latent racism of both the Tories and Labour.

  • (Matt Bristol) 10th Aug '15 - 3:59pm

    I find the defense of Channle 4’s specific output depressing and not to the point.

    Liberals should consider defending Channel 4’s current fundinng arrangement because there is nothing wrong with having a diversity of providers in the broadcasting sector with a diversity of funding models and a diversity of ‘public sector’ remits. That’s liberalism.

    To drive forward in the face of all opposition the shifting of most if not all broadcasting to a fully-private model would not be liberalism, it would be ‘selling the family silver’, to quote a past Conservative leader.

  • Peter Bancroft 10th Aug '15 - 11:14pm

    Why not set up Channel 4 as a not for profit independent of the state interference? I find a lot of their current material even more offensive as a taxpayer than that of the BBC but I do recognise the benefit in having some independent, alternative production formats and so why not enshrine it in TV regulatory bodies but remove that tenuous link to the UK govt?

  • John Tilley 11th Aug '15 - 8:55am

    (Matt Bristol) 10th Aug ’15 – 3:59pm
    “…. the shifting of most if not all broadcasting to a fully-private model would not be liberalism, it would be ‘selling the family silver’, ”

    Quite correct, Matt Bristol. Selling the family silver has been the rightwing answer to everything since the days of Sir Keith Joseph and those other Hayek-worshipping types who infested the Conservative Party in the 1970s and have since spread via the IEA, the wrongly named ‘Lberal Vision’ and other front organisations into our party. I think that finally people are waking up to the lies and deceit that make up this approach and that selling off what we the citizens own so that a small group of rich people can get even richer (eg Royal Mail) is not the brightest idea ever.

  • Katerina Porter 11th Aug '15 - 3:50pm

    Channel 4 news is really the only news I watch. BBC news has been pretty inadequate since it had its funding cut, almost one of the first moves David Cameron made on being Prime Minister, presumably to please Rupert Murdoch.

  • David Evans 11th Aug '15 - 4:21pm

    John Tilley – Absolutely true.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Aug '15 - 7:05pm

    John Tilley 11th Aug ’15 – 8:55am

    As David Evan’s states “Absolutely true”

    Assuming Sir Keith Joseph and F. A. Hayek didn’t actually foresee just far their ideological experiment would infiltrate western political and then global thinking, the results of the experiment have now become all too clear on individuals, communities and nations worldwide.

    Rather than spreading wealth and power, the ideology has been shown in practice to serve only to concentrate them in the hands of smaller and smaller elites.

    This has been sustained by the constant flow of their particular world view duly delivered by privately owned vested-interest newspapers and reinforced by television broadcasters increasing permitting these newspapers and moaning Conservative politicians to set the news agenda.

    More than ever we need a free and diversely owned and publishing/broadcasting media.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Aug '15 - 7:11pm

    … obviously an extra ‘and’ slipped in to the final sentence.

    I would really love to know how much it would cost to set up a correctable preview screen of our posts. I’m sure many of us would happily chip in to fund this much needed nod to ‘modernity’!

  • David Evershed 11th Aug '15 - 7:26pm

    Stephen Hesketh at 7.05pm

    Publishing and broadcasting are not being concentrated in fewerand fewer hands of the elite or the non elite.

    The world wide web has enabled publishing and broadcasting to become both fragmented and global.

    The number of available TV channels in the Uk is now over 100 and no one challel dominates. Younger people don’t read newspapers or watch TV very much but access information via social media and the internet. Anyone can broadcast their ideas on Youtube or publish a blog on sites such as Lib Dem Voice.

  • David Evans 11th Aug '15 - 8:19pm

    David Evershed – True but for every 200,000,000 blogs there is a Fox News; and for every Lib Dem Voice there is a Guido Fawkes, a ConHome, Iain Dale etc.

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