Privatising Channel 4 could see money ‘flowing out of the country’, MPs warn

Privatising Channel 4 could result in money “flowing out of the country and into the pockets of multinational corporations”, a group of MPs have warned the Culture Secretary.

The Channel 4 All-Party Parliamentary Group said in an open letter to Oliver Dowden that the company is a “radical, innovative force in UK broadcasting” and has a “very special, unique, and distinctive place in modern Britain”.

The channel, which was founded in 1982, is owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (Yui Mok/PA)

A consultation looking at the economic, social and cultural costs and benefits of releasing Channel 4 from public ownership is currently under way.

The letter to Mr Dowden was signed by MPs Helen Grant, Jason McCartney, Julie Elliott, Lisa Cameron and Andy Carter, as well as Baroness Bonham-Carter.

It states that the group “believe there may be unforeseen costs and harms arising from privatisation which will need to be carefully considered”.

“It could risk destabilising the national effort to build back better, disrupting the creative industries – one of the strongest parts of our economy – and damaging a film and TV sector currently envied around the world.”

The letter said there could be “possible unintended consequences of removing publisher-broadcaster status” which sees all revenues invested back into the production of its content.

Channel 4 new HQ
Channel 4 was founded in 1982 (Victoria Jones/PA)

“Money would be taken away from small independent businesses across the UK, and instead could end up flowing out of the country and into the pockets of multinational corporations and their shareholders.”

Earlier this month Mr Dowden said: “The media world has changed immeasurably since Channel 4’s creation in the early 1980s, but, whilst we have more choice today the need for a strong and successful Channel 4 continues.

“So, in the face of rising global competition, now is the right time to strengthen UK public service broadcasters and consider releasing Channel 4 from the constraints of public ownership, enabling it to thrive for the next 40 years and beyond.”

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Russell T Davies has voiced opposition to the potential sale of Channel 4 (Jane Barlow/PA)

Figures including It’s A Sin writer Russell T Davies and The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci have voiced opposition to the potential sale of Channel 4.

The consultation comes ahead of a Government White Paper on the future of broadcasting which is due in the autumn.

It will close on September 14.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been contacted for comment.