Dorries claims Channel 4 sell-off will 'benefit' the broadcaster
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said privatising Channel 4 is for the “benefit” of the broadcaster after being accused of pursuing a “petty vendetta”.
MPs raised fresh concerns over the Government’s plans to sell the broadcaster, which has been publicly owned since its creation in 1982 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and is funded by advertising.
Speaking during digital, culture, media and sport questions, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) told the Commons: “Ninety-six per cent of the people who responded to the Channel 4 consultation did not support privatisation.
“Can the Government please explain why they are not paying attention and determined to privatise Channel 4?”
Ms Dorries replied: “Fifty-three per cent of people in a public poll actually thought that Channel 4 was already privately owned. They did not realise.
“We have to address what is a rapidly changing landscape in terms of broadcasting in the UK at the moment. It is a bad business model for any organisation to depend on one form of revenue.
“As we know, linear advertising is decreasing and Channel 4 is dependent on that advertising. It is a decision that we have to take for the benefit of Channel 4.”
She said the decision would allow Channel 4 to raise investment, and added in response to later questions about whether it would protect minimum British content, news content and innovative programming, that “it is being sold as a public service broadcaster and those criteria… absolutely will be in there”.
For Labour, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell suggested a consultation on Channel 4 showed a lack of support for privatisation.
She said: “Isn’t it the truth that (Ms Dorries) made up her mind long, long ago, not based on the evidence or the responses but on her own ideology and a petty vendetta against Channel 4 news coverage?”
She added: “The evidence is compelling; privatisation is bad for levelling up, bad for the skills pipeline, bad for the independent production sector, and bad for our world-beating creative industries.
“Just like with the forthcoming BBC licence review, isn’t the process just a sham? She doesn’t listen to evidence, industry, the public, or in fact many of her own backbenches. So why doesn’t she support British jobs and British broadcasting and stop the sell off?”
Culture minister Julia Lopez said: “That is not the truth, this is not a decision driven by ideology. This is about what is best for our creative sector, what’s best for audiences, and what is best for the taxpayer.”
Glenrothes SNP MP Peter Grant added: “When the Secretary of State was asked by the DCMS Select Committee why she wanted to privatise Channel 4, she said it was because it was costing the taxpayer too much in subsidies. I think she was the only person in the room who was labouring under that particular delusion.
“Given that that excuse has gone, isn’t it time to come clean and to say that the Secretary of State’s mission against Channel 4 is not to do with making it a better broadcaster, it is to do with trying to shut down a broadcaster who have got a nasty habit of broadcasting the truth, and particularly truths that the Secretary of State might prefer to not be made known?”