Julian Knight has questioned whether the Government’s plans to press ahead with Channel 4’s privatization are “revenge”, adding that many Tories believe the move is “payback time” for “biased reporting”.
In a series of tweets, the MP addressed what he described as “elephant time in the room” when he tweeted: “Is this done in revenge for Channel 4’s biased coverage of Brexit and personal attacks on the Prime Minister? The timing of the 7pm announcement, which coincided with the Channel 4 news, was very revealing…”.
His tweets follow Monday’s confirmation that the government plans to proceed with plans to privatize the channel, with sales plans reportedly set out in a white paper later in April and included in a new media law for Spring 2023.
It is certainly true that Channel 4 will have more freedom to compete after privatisation, and if run well it should be able to continue to innovate and critically appeal to young audiences – a real differentiator in today’s broadcasting landscape.
— Julian Knight MP (@julianknight15) April 5, 2022
Mr Knight, chairman of the Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said the views in his tweets were his own and not those of the “committee in general”.
He wrote: “It is certainly true that post privatization Channel 4 will have more freedom to compete and if run well it should be able to continue to innovate and appeal to young viewers in particular – a real differentiator in the industry.” today’s broadcasting landscape.
“But that’s a big risk. The question has to be, do you think a limited but brilliant little state broadcaster will compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon, or will it be able to borrow and grow in a way that only privatization can unleash ?
“In all of this it is crucial that the government protects the prominence of all public service broadcasters through the new media law to give companies like a new privatized Kanal 4 a head start.
“No doubt there is a sense of payback in much of the party and the word privatization tickles the ivory of many. The money is immaterial – equivalent to four days of government debt interest – and must therefore be used to foster skills in creative sectors.
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“So to sum it up. Privatization – even for the wrong reasons – can work for C4, but it needs to be part of a thorough overhaul of all public service broadcasting. If this is in the media law, I will support the government. After all, these are my views, not those of the committee in general.”
Similarly, former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the announcement was the “opposite of alignment”.
In a tweet, Baroness Davidson added: “Channel 4 is publicly owned, not publicly funded. It doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
“It also commissions content by charter, but doesn’t make/own any of its own. It’s one of the reasons we have such a thriving indy sector in places like Glasgow.”
Former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Times Radio he was “uneasy” about the privatization of Channel 4.
“I am not against the privatization of large national monopolies. But I believe in competition.
A change of ownership will give Channel 4 the tools and freedom to thrive and prosper as a public broadcaster well into the future. I will set out the future plan for Channel 4 in a white paper in due course. 2/3
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) April 4, 2022
“I think one of the reasons we have a really healthy, vibrant media is that we give the BBC a very good bang for their buck when it comes to not just the big commercially successful programs but also things like news and documentaries and Times Radio is very important in that regard, but I think Channel 4 is too.
“I don’t want the competitive pressure on the BBC to go down.”
The channel is currently owned by the government and funded by advertising.
Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio responded to a tweet from Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries warning that the sale of Channel 4 would “do great damage to domestic creative businesses, all to silence a critical news outlet and as worth mentioning, make a few pounds for your buddies while they’re at it.
During a select committee hearing last November, Ms Dorries claimed the channel had “received public funding” when the channel’s future was at stake.
A solution without problems. Channel4 was the best of all worlds: a public service paid for by advertisers. Programming for the public good, not for private profit. We don’t need more US-style streamers – a bloated bubble about to burst – but we’ll miss the TV that’s ours when it’s gone https://t.co/PV2UdWgaNV
— James Graham (@mrJamesGraham) April 5, 2022
On Monday, she said she wanted the channel to remain a “cherished place in British life” but felt government ownership “is preventing Channel 4 from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.
“I will try to reinvest the proceeds from the sale to improve the creative sector, put money into independent production and creative skills in priority parts of the country – and deliver a creative dividend for all,” she added in a tweet.
Playwright James Graham also responded to Dorries, tweeting: “A no-hassle solution. Channel 4 was the best of all worlds: a public service paid for by advertisers. Programming for the public good, not for private profit. We don’t need more US-style streamers – a bloated bubble about to burst – but we’ll miss TV by & for us when it’s gone.”
Channel 4 said it was “disappointed” with the government’s decision to proceed with plans to privatize the channel without “formally acknowledging the significant public interest concerns that have been expressed”.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tory-mp-questions-plan-to-privatise-channel-4-as-revenge-for-biased-coverage-41522314.html Tory MP questions plan to privatize Channel 4 in ‘revenge’ for biased reporting