A group of senior Conservative politicians has written a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to curtail plans to privatise Channel 4, saying “Channel 4 isn’t broke, and doesn’t need fixing.”

In a letter delivered yesterday (Sunday) to Boris Johnson, the MPs, who include former culture secretary Karen Bradley, describe the channel as  “self-sufficient and successful, making no drain on the public purse. It also plays a vital role in the broadcasting ecosystem, not least in commissioning programmes from more independent production companies, and more small independent production companies, than any other public service broadcaster.”

They argue that Margaret Thatcher’s vision for the channel as “an incubator for independent, risk-taking, innovative private sector companies” should be respected.

The letter continues: “It is in many ways an engine of small production company growth outside the M25, giving a platform to regional businesses, which we should be nurturing and growing. Regional voices have long struggled to break into the broadcasting landscape; Channel 4’s current ownership structure ensures more will be heard. In doing this, it plays a crucial role in supporting British businesses in one of the UK’s most internationally successful and iconic industries.”

The letter considers the government’s current proposals for preserving positive aspects of the channel in any sale. “It has suggested that it may place certain conditions on the sale of Channel 4: on commissioning a certain amount of its programming from independents, on a commitment to levelling up through regional commissioning and retaining its new Leeds headquarters, and on demonstrating innovation and distinctive character in its programming. This is all well and good, but all of it relates to things which Channel 4 already does and which its commercial and PSB competitors do not do, or do not do to the same extent. An easier solution exists: leave it alone.”

Pippa Considine

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