No final decision but Government ‘minded to sell’ Channel 4, says minister

The Government is “minded to sell” Channel 4 but no final decision has been made on the potential privatisation of the broadcaster, a minister has said.

Media minister Julia Lopez told the House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee the broadcasting landscape in the UK is changing and Channel 4’s long-term future needs to be secured.

The Government has carried out a consultation on whether to privatise Channel 4, which is publicly owned and receives its funding from advertising.

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Julia Lopez (Ian West/PA)

A decision is yet to be made as to whether or not it will be sold off to a private buyer.

Ms Lopez said she was trying to make sure Channel 4 “thrives and succeeds long into the future in a very dynamic, fast-changing broadcasting landscape”.

She added: “The Government has suggested that it is minded to sell, but that decision is not yet made.”

Strong public service broadcasters are “an important aspect of global Britain” and the “soft power that we project”, she added.

However, she added that Channel 4’s ownership model meant it was “not able to access capital in the way that other broadcasters are, which we think poses challenges to its long-term sustainability”.

“It is not able to own its own content, which again I think is going to be a challenge because the entire landscape is changing very, very rapidly,” she added.

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Alex Mahon (Yui Mok/PA)

Last week Channel 4’s chief executive, Alex Mahon, warned that privatising the broadcaster could have a “negative impact on the types of content” it produced.

She said shows such as It’s A Sin, the TV film Help, the Paralympics and a Dispatches special about sexual abuse by serving police officers would not be aired by commercially minded streaming giants.

Speaking about Channel 4’s slate of programmes, she told the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee: “I don’t believe that Netflix would be making those pieces.”

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