Tory MPs were at odds over the privatization of Channel 4 as the plans could face a revolt

Disagreements in the Conservative Party over the privatization of Channel 4 are coming to light and the plans are likely to find a bumpy road in Parliament.

ory MP and Father of the House of Representatives, Sir Peter Bottomley, told the PA news agency the House of Lords would remove any clause privatizing the network and announced he would be making a speech in the House of Commons shortly after the Queen’s speech, in which he will explain why he considers the plans “unconservative”.

The government confirmed on Monday it will proceed with plans to privatize Channel 4, which has been publicly owned and advertising-funded since its inception in 1982.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said that while Channel 4 has a “cherished place in British life” she felt public ownership prevented the channel from “competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.

Plans for the sale will reportedly be set out in a white paper later this month and will be included in a new media bill for next spring.

After the government made the announcement, it became clear that privatization plans were not going down well not only with media personalities but also with senior Conservative Party figures.

A number of Tory MPs and peers including Sir Peter, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee leader Julian Knight and former Cabinet Ministers Damian Green and Jeremy Hunt publicly questioned the plans.

Sir Peter, representing Worthing West, said he was against the sale “because I’m a Conservative”.

The government is rebelling against the status quo. And I hope that their rebellion will be unsuccessfulMr Peter Bottomley

He added: “If you’re considering a change, you have a good reason for it. If you say it can’t compete with Netflix, my answer is that it shouldn’t compete with Netflix.

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“And second, look at the number of people watching Channel 4 and its associated streams and compare that to people using Netflix. Channel 4 wins hands down.”

Asked if the proposals will struggle to get through Parliament, he said: “The House of Lords will remove any clause privatizing Channel 4.

“And secondly, if you listen to any of the early speeches after the Queen’s speech, it will be me. And I will explain why I think it is unconservative to propose this measure to Parliament.”

Sir Peter insisted it will not be a Tory rebellion as it will be the Government “rebelling against the status quo”.


Sir Peter Bottomley (House of Commons)

A government defeat in the House of Commons seems unlikely given Boris Johnson’s working majority of 77, but things could be different in the House of Lords as there is no Tory majority in the House of Lords.

Sir Peter’s comments were echoed by Mr Green, who also called the plans “unconservative” in a tweet on Monday.

He said: “By selling Channel 4, politicians and civil servants think they know more about running a business than the people who run it. Very unconservative. Mrs Thatcher, who created it, never made that mistake.”

Mr Knight asked if the government’s real motivation is rooted in the view that Channel 4 is too left-leaning, as he tweeted: “Is this being 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…”

Former Culture Secretary Hunt told Times Radio he was “uneasy” about the sale, adding: “I am not opposed to the privatization of large national monopolies. But I believe in competition.”

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) shared a picture on Twitter which read: “David Attenborough thinks Channel 4 should remain publicly owned, share if you agree” and Tory Peer Baroness Davidson tweeted the plans marked the “opposite of alignment”.

In a speech to LBC radio on Wednesday morning, Health Minister Sajid Javid insisted privatizing the network would free it.

He said: “I love Channel 4. I think it’s great, but I want a Channel 4 that can keep up in a rapidly changing landscape. I think we can all agree that the media landscape has changed since Channel 4 was founded.

“You have to think carefully why it might be better to sell it and the reason is that in order to compete properly it needs to be able to raise its own funds and capital, be it debt or equity to do so in a way that it can adequately compete in a rapidly changing media landscape.

“This frees channel 4. It will still be a public broadcaster like ITV, by the way. It will have a public license. Below that they will have duties.

“You know, ITV is a great British channel too, but it’s been privately owned for many, many years. And it keeps getting stronger. I think it was able to compete more effectively that way.

“And by the way, I understand the funds that will be raised – I don’t know how much will ultimately have to be worked out – but the funds that will be raised through sales, which will be significant, will all be reinvested into the creative industries, including independent productions.”

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tory-mps-divided-over-channel-4-privatisation-as-plans-could-face-revolt-41526942.html Tory MPs were at odds over the privatization of Channel 4 as the plans could face a revolt

Fry Electronics Team

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