Senior Conservative MPs are questioning the proposed privatization of Kanal 4

Senior Conservative MPs have questioned the proposed privatization of Kanal 4, with a former cabinet minister saying “deeply skeptical of the wisdom” of the plans.

Details of the government’s proposals to sell Channel 4 will be released on Thursday, Culture Minister Julia Lopez told MPs.

She said: “The government is determined to protect the role of public service broadcasters in our nation’s economic, cultural and democratic life. And to ensure they remain at the heart of our broadcasting system, no matter what the future brings.

Channel 4 has been in its best creative and financial shape for decadesMr Peter Bottomley

“So tomorrow we will be releasing a white paper proposing major reforms to our decades-old broadcasting regulations. Reforms that will bring traditional broadcasters like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 on par with Netflix, Amazon Prime and others, allowing them to thrive in the streaming age.

“We will lay out full details of our proposals when the white paper is published and it is important to understand that the sale of Channel 4 is only part of this major reform.”

But the Conservative father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), warned the “government might do best by leaving them alone”.

He said: “Channel 4 has been in its best creative and financial shape for decades.

“We were told earlier that it should be able to compete with Netflix. Netflix’s share price is now $198, it was $700 – that’s a huge drop and it’s a loss-making, leveraged business.”

He asked the government to “explain why they prefer to go to the US rather than have a state broadcaster that is independent of the government and whether the members of the government think they don’t like it because they occasionally have criticized the government in their news”.

Ms Lopez replied: “I think it’s important to understand the Secretary of State (Nadine Dorries) and I’ve been very open about this whole process.”

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Nadine Dorries (Victoria Jones/PA)

Conservative former Cabinet Secretary Damian Green (Ashford) said: “(She) is aware of my deep skepticism about the wisdom of the approach the Government is taking in this regard.”

Another former Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam), said: “[She]was of course right when she said that previous Foreign Secretaries have considered Channel 4’s privatisation, but she will also recognize that not all of convinced us at the time that it was the right thing to do.”

Julian Knight, Tory leader of the Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, asked: “I broadly welcome the concept of privatisation, but what assurances can the Secretary give me that this privatization is a game burning the candle is worth?”

Conservative leader of Channel 4’s all-party parliamentary group, Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald), said: “Channel 4 is a valuable national asset. It was created by Margaret Thatcher 40 years ago. It puts the common good before profit and remains sustainable.

“Why is the government not taking into account Channel 4’s detailed plans to address the government’s concerns?”

Where is the foreign minister today to defend her policy? It’s a pattern and it’s a shameLucy Powell

Labor warned that Channel 4 would be “swallowed” by US streaming giants if sold, and slammed the government for revealing details of the sale as Parliament’s session is expected to end.

Lucy Powell, secretary for shadow culture, posed an urgent question, saying: “The Channel 4 sell-out is an important matter for Parliament, but instead of a statement we had a tweet announcement during the break and, we now hear, a white paper published tomorrow when we are not here and there will be no opportunity for comment.

“And where is the foreign minister today to defend her policy? It’s a pattern and it’s a shame.”

Ms Powell questioned the reason for the sale, telling MPs: “Is it to improve the country? Of course, given that Channel 4 commissions half of its budget outside of London, creating a pipeline of talent across the nations and regions, and stimulating creative industries in places like Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol, that’s not the case.

“Is it about creating more British jobs in our world-leading creative industries? You and I both know that the major US media companies looking for a showcase for their own content will be likely buyers.

“She says the sell-off is necessary to help Channel 4 compete with companies like Netflix and Amazon – the truth is they’re being gobbled up by them.”

Conservative MP Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) described public service broadcasters like Channel 4 as a “valued national asset” and underlined their importance to rural areas, adding: “Please, please can I ask the government to stop this Channel 4 to reconsider privatization idea.”

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/senior-conservative-mps-question-proposed-privatisation-of-channel-4-41593593.html Senior Conservative MPs are questioning the proposed privatization of Kanal 4

Fry Electronics Team

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