Producers’ trade body, Pact, says that government plans to look into the possible privatisation of Channel 4 will cause damage to production companies as they attempt to rebuild post COVID.
The government is to begin its review on the ownership model and remit of Channel 4 with privatisation an option.
The consultation is part of an ongoing strategic review of the UK public service broadcasting system that will also consider tightening regulation of video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
The reviews will come ahead of a broadcasting white paper due in the autumn.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age. The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system. So we’ll now be looking at how we can help make sure Channel 4 keeps its place at the heart of British broadcasting and level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services.”
Responding to the Government’s announcement, Pact CEO John McVay, said: “Channel 4 plays a critical role in the UK’s broadcasting ecology as a publisher/broadcaster which has invested in hundreds of independent production companies over the nearly 40 years of its existence, enabling and improving access, skills, international activity and diversity.
“The channel is a thriving dynamic and successful public service broadcaster and a catalyst for generations of entrepreneurs. The Government’s plans to sell off Channel 4 will damage small businesses across the UK at a time when they are recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding their businesses. The current Government’s thesis that bigger is always better is an archaic concept from an analogue past.
“Pact is very concerned about the Government’s proposal for the future of Channel 4, as their profits are reinvested in hundreds of British companies who not only make high quality, diverse programmes for the British public, but exploit their IP around the globe taking those programmes to international audiences and bringing money back to the UK economy.
“This proposal will damage British SMEs at a time when we should be focussing on building back better after the pandemic.”
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