Culture Secretary considering ‘options' while reviewing plans to sell Channel 4

Michelle Donelan talked about how she is planning to approach the privatisation decision at her first DCMS committee meeting.

The new Culture Secretary said she is considering “other options for providing long-term sustainability” to Channel 4 while reviewing the Government’s plans to sell the broadcaster.

The decision to take Channel 4 out of public ownership was announced under the tenure of Michelle Donelan’s predecessor Nadine Dorries, who led the controversial move during her time under Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Appearing at her first Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee meeting as Culture Secretary on Tuesday, Ms Donelan talked about how she is planning to approach the decision.

Rishi Sunak becomes new PM
Michelle Donelan (Victoria Jones/PA)

Asked if she has abandoned plans to privatise Channel 4, she said: “When I entered the role, what I wanted to do, as someone that focuses very much on the evidence, is review the business case myself and I can understand why there were concerns around Channel 4 in the long term from a sustainability point of view.

“And so, in addition to reviewing the business case, specifically for selling Channel 4, I’ve also been reviewing the other options for providing long-term sustainability around Channel 4 and we will announce our decision on that in due course.”

Ms Donelan said she will not be announcing any decision yet but reinforced she is “an evidence-based politician” and has been looking at the issue “in the round”.

She said she will be discussing the other options with Channel 4 to see how “feasible” they are in securing the broadcaster’s future.

However, she said the Government does not need the channel’s agreement to sell it but would need its sign-off if it is going to pursue the other options.

Channel 4, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, was created in 1982 by the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher and entirely funded by advertising, out of public ownership.

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Michelle Donelan’s predecessor Nadine Dorries led the controversial decision to take Channel 4 out of public ownership during her time under Boris Johnson’s leadership. (James Manning/PA)

The Culture Secretary said she feels Channel 4 is a “great success story”, making £101 million in profit in 2021, and said its on-demand service All4 is “comparable to Netflix and Amazon Prime”.

She added: “The problem is more associated with the long-term potential because a great deal of their business model was obviously based on linear advertising so that was the crux of the concern.

“But I have been reviewing this. I will report back as soon as I can and say more but rest assured that I’ve been doing this with an evidence focus.”

Ms Donelan, who was appointed by Liz Truss and remained in the position after Rishi Sunak took over as Prime Minister, previously cast doubt on plans to privatise the broadcaster.

She said she was re-examining the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

When the Government announced plans earlier this year to take the channel out of public ownership, it said it was so the broadcaster can better survive in a media landscape dominated by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.