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Culture secretary hints at u-turn on Channel 4 privatisation

Minister for Tech Michelle Donelan

The new culture secretary has hinted at a reprieve from privatisation for Channel 4 in comments to BBC Radio 4.

Michelle Donelan told the channel’s Today programme that she intends to “re-examine the business case” for privatisation.

Donelan’s predecessor, Nadine Dorries, set out plans to take the broadcaster out of public ownership. The plans have been met with dismay across the industry, particularly given Channel 4’s creative and economic success as a self-funding, publicly owned broadcaster which does not require any state funding.

Channel 4 has also been a champion of providing community-focused content and taking production out of the capital thanks to its major Leeds hub. Critics of the privatisation plans say it would not be able to continue in these roles to the same degree under private ownership.

UK producer trade body Pact has been among leading voices opposing the plans. It sent an open letter to both contenders in the recent Conservative leadership campaign, signed by 750 production companies, urging them to reconsider the “devastating” plans.

The proposal has also faced opposition from the channel’s own executives.

Donelan, who herself worked in the media before entering politics, including roles at Sky and WWE, added: “As the prime minister said, we do need to re-examine the business case and that’s certainly what I’m doing. We’re looking especially at the business case for the sale of Channel 4 and we’re making sure that we still agree with that decision.”

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