[UPDATE 5 January 2022]
The decision not to privatise Channel 4 has been officially announced by the government. Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan said:
Channel 4 is a British success story and a linchpin of our booming creative industries. After reviewing the business case and engaging with the relevant sectors I have decided that Channel 4 should not be sold.
This announcement will bring huge opportunities across the UK with Channel 4’s commitment to double their skills investment to £10 million and double the number of jobs outside of London. The package will also safeguard the future of our world leading independent production sector. We will work closely with them to add new protections such as increasing the amount of content C4C must commission from independent producers.
In a statement, Channel 4 Chief Executive Alex Mahon said:
The principle of public ownership for Channel 4 is now set for the foreseeable future, a decision which allows us to be even more of a power in the digital world.
UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has advised against privatising Channel 4. According to a letter obtained by Lewis Goodall of LBC/”The News Agents” on Wednesday, she told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that she has “concluded that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decisions and there are better ways to secure C4C’s sustainability and that of the UK independent production section”.
Instead, Donelan wants “legislate to introduce a new statutory duty for the [Channel 4] board to promote long-term sustainability” on top of its current responsibilities. She also advocates for “more commercial flexibility” and says “C4C has agreed to increase its investment in skills and the nations and regions” i.e. moving more work and investment outside of London.
The sale of Channel 4 was proposed by Donelan’s predecessor, Nadine Dorries. It was a key policy in the dying days of the Boris Johnson government. As I noted in a newsletter at the time, the unique model Channel 4 operates under allowed it to broadcast daring shows such as “Skins” and provide brilliant coverage of the Paralympics. Thankfully, Sunak has been less keen on a sell-off since entering Number 10. Today’s news seems to bring the issue to a close under this government.