Boris Johnson has confirmed the government’s intention to privatize Channel 4, saying the sale will “unleash the potential of the UK’s creative sector”.
These comments were part of the Prime Minister’s introduction to the Queen’s speech, read by the Prince of Wales at the State Opening of Parliament in the first ceremony the monarch has not attended in almost 60 years.
Among the 38 bills in the government’s new legislative program is the Media Bill, which promises to “reform decades-old laws” to “give a boost to public service broadcasters” and includes the controversial privatization of Channel 4.
Channel 4 has been publicly owned since its inception in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and is funded entirely by advertising.
The government said the media law will allow for a change of ownership to give the channel “the tools it needs to thrive in the future as a public service broadcaster, while preserving its distinctiveness”.
The main elements section of the bill mentions that the channel may move from a “statutory body to a new corporate structure that could be sold” and “other changes to Channel 4’s commitments and mission to ensure the sustainability of the channel sender”.
Other benefits of the media law, the government says, will ensure that content from public service broadcasters is given due prominence so that it is always “broadcast and easy to find for UK audiences on connected devices and major online platforms” and on other devices too such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.
The bill also cements recently announced plans for Ofcom to regulate streaming platforms to “protect audiences” from “harmful material,” according to last month’s white paper.
As previously announced, under the legislation, the media regulator will have the power to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code aimed at setting standards for “major TV-like services” such as Netflix, ITV Hub and Now TV bringing the rules up a level with traditional broadcasters.
video of the day
The maximum penalty for breaching the Code is £250,000 or an amount of up to 5% of company turnover, whichever is greater.
Ofcom will also be given an “enhanced duty” to assess protections such as age ratings and viewership, with the power to force changes under the new proposal.
The bill also mentions the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, a provision that would allow courts to award media organizations that are not signed up to a recognized regulator all costs relating to defamation, privacy, malicious falsehood and even harassment pay when they win.
The powers under Section 40 are enforceable only where there is a recognized regulatory authority.
The Press Recognition Panel (PRP), an independent body set up under the Royal Charter recognizing press regulators, currently only recognizes one panel – Impress, which oversees 116 publishers, its website says.
Another body in the UK is the Independent Press Standards Organization (Ipso), a voluntary, non-government sponsored body funded by the press.
Ipso was created in 2014 after the Leveson investigation, which concluded that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) was not working.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/media-bill-to-give-channel-4-tools-it-needs-to-succeed-in-the-future-41634470.html Media bill gives Channel 4 ‘tools it needs to be successful in the future’